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Education Secretary Urges Morehouse Students to Serve Their Country By Becoming Teachers

Video: A Message from President Obama/TEACH Event Opening Remarks

Video: TEACH Event Webcast footage

Blog: The White House Blog: The Next Generation of Teachers by Arne Duncan


(Jan. 31, 2011) -- When Derrick Dalton grew up, education didn’t hold the same importance each day at his house as did just getting by.

“I was from a household where education was not a priority,” he told a capacity-audience in the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center during the “Just Another Day at the Office” town hall meeting on the importance of teachers in America.

“But I had teachers along the way who helped,” said Dalton, now the principal at Mundy’s Mill High School in suburban Atlanta. “I made a decision that I would make a difference in the lives of people like myself.”

It is a story that Dalton - along with Atlanta teacher Christopher Watson, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, filmmaker Shelton “Spike” Lee ’79, MSNBC’s Jeff Johnson, President Robert M. Franklin ’75 and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan – hopes can resonate in young black men.

Sponsored by Morehouse College and the U.S. Department of Education, the town hall meetings are part of a national initiative to get more black males interested in becoming educators, especially in the communities where they are most needed.

"The biggest impact of a child's success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom," said President Barack Obama during his taped remarks at the beginning of the program. "Right now, too few Americans are choosing to make that impact, especially in the African American community... That needs to change. I cant think of a better place to begin that conversation than at Morehouse at the beginning of Black History Month."

Less than three percent of the nation’s teachers are persons of color during a time when black children need black teachers as mentors and role models, Duncan said.

“The facts are pretty stark,” he said. “We have to make sure our teachers and principals reflect the great diversity of this country. Right now, that is not the case.”

According to Lewis, who recalled having to elude racists to get to school as a youngster, having black teachers is paramount to the success of young black men.

“It is important to see black males in our schools teaching,” he said. “If it weren’t for Martin Luther King Jr. and black teachers encouraging me to read, I wouldn’t be in Congress today.”

Duncan said with an aging teaching workforce, up to 200,000 new teachers will need to be hired each year. But more importantly, black men can serve their country by becoming teachers.

“If we are going to do the right thing by our communities, by our families, by our men, by our country, we have to change this,” he said. “I think the men of Morehouse will be a huge part of the solution.”

Franklin said those men of Morehouse – many who sat in the audience in maroon Morehouse blazers – are preparing for those roles as mentors. He hopes their spirit will be something other young men across the nation will emulate.

“What’s important is character education – to be a man who is good and right and decent and who does the right thing even when no one is looking,” Franklin said. “Ultimately, that is the test of a good education.”

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