Every other year in the long standing tradition of honoring teachers of the year and the national teacher of the year, the title would have been (insert president’s name) celebrates teachers of the year. But in the true narcissistic fashion of the current president, this was an abhorrent reversal.
As many news media outlets are reporting, this is how the 2017 Teacher of the Year celebration went down on Thursday compared to tradition:
- In the past, the teacher of the year had an opportunity to speak. This year only Trump spoke.
- In the past, the president spoke with the teachers. This year Trump hardly spoke with the teachers.
- In the past, family members joined the teachers at the celebration. This year they were relegated to a separate room.
- In the past, the celebration was either in the East room or the Rose Garden. This year the teachers were invited inside the Oval Office where Trump had them stand around his desk.
- Trump introduced the teacher of the year, Sydney Chaffee, from Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, Massachusetts as the other teachers applauded. Trump handed her the trophy while remaining seated at his desk.
- In the past, the teacher of the year gives remarks. This year Chaffee was not invited to give remarks.
In stark contrast, Obama met with the 2016 teachers in the East Room where he gave a speech praising them and calling for more federal funding for public education. In his speech, Obama said, “So for seven years, I’ve stood in the White House with America’s finest public servants and private-sector innovators and our best advocates and our best athletes and our best artists, and I have to tell you there are few moments that make me prouder than this event when I stand alongside our nation’s best educators” (source).
In 2004, George W. Bush met with teachers in the Rose Garden where he spoke of the tradition of presenting the award to the teachers every year since Harry Truman. Bush said, “When you’re in the company of some of the nation’s finest citizens, our greatest teachers, you’re in the company of people who give their hearts and their careers to improving the lives of children. You’re in the company of the best of our country (source).
In his words to the teachers on Thursday, Mr. Trump said, “When you go home, I hope you all say that your trip to the White House was something very special. I know Melania has been working with you now for quite a while. She is a tremendous fan of wonderful teachers. But she’s worked very hard and we’re having some special times here. This is Melania’s birthday and you were very nice to sing happy birthday, even though we’re celebrating you” (source).
If only the President quoted inspiring words from Helen Caldicott for example who said, “Teachers, I believe, are the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the earth” (source). If only he had the respect to stand to present the award and address these teachers, commending them for their hard work, diligence, and undying commitment to the children in their schools. Rather, seated in a chair, the best Trump could muster was to say, “You’re all great, great teachers” (source).
This week, Trump was also quoted as saying of the presidency, “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier” (source).
How hard is it for the President to stand before a group of committed teachers from across this great nation and commend them for their hard work and determination? Even his speechwriters could have come up with something to say. My guess is they were never asked to do so.
These are my reflections for today.