Thursday, February 16, 2017

PTA Special Edition - Founders' Day 2017

Founders' Day.  Each year we celebrate this day by gathering with other volunteers from local units, county councils and special guests.  We celebrate our membership achievements and we encourage everyone to contribute to our scholarship program.  We welcome new members, recognize longtime leaders (one county actually calls them "Dinosaurs"!) and inspire folks to pay attention to upcoming news about our Legislative Conference and Leadership Convention.  Maybe your county does even more...maybe not. 

But what is the true meaning of Founders' Day?  What are we celebrating?  We're celebrating the legacy that has inspired us to continue to advocate for children.  We're celebrating the lives and mission of three women who decided that enough was enough and wanted to not just talk about change, but become catalysts for change.  Do you think for one moment that Alice or Phoebe or Selena imagined that 120 years later, on the anniversary of the first meeting of parents, teachers, workers, and legislators, that there would be close to 5 million volunteers carrying a membership card that proudly bears the name PTA?

Then what were they thinking about, if not about fame, glory, and their aging photos hanging in schools and offices around the country?  I can't say for certain, but I have a strong feeling that they were thinking about their community.  They were thinking about the families that were hurting and whose children were being injured or dying in factories.  They were thinking about kids who needed better health care and vaccinations against diseases.  They were thinking that every child should have proper nutrition and enough food so that they were not going hungry.  They were thinking that every single child deserved the best education our constitution guarantees.  They took on big government and big industries without wavering in their fight for what was right, and they persevered!

So, here we are...120 years later and we're a part of a movement that has made great strides in all of these areas.  But, does it seem that the mission has been accomplished?  Does it feel like we have less work now that needs to be done?  Do you think that fundraisers and cookie bakes were destined to be our legacy?  I feel that most of you will agree that the answer is ABSOLUTELY NO!  Our work is most definitely not done.  This advocacy thing is not for the weak at heart, for the easily offended or for the armchair commentator.  This movement is for those who are not only focused on continuing a legacy but in leaving their own, by making lives better for OUR communities, for OUR hurting children, for OUR families in need.

This Founders' Day, take a moment to remember why we meet.  Their voices should be in the room.  Their passion should be stirring around each table.  Their faces are sitting in each chair.  Look around, tap into that energy and let's make history, shall we?
Cindy Gerhardt
President, Florida PTA

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