May 1, 2009 -- Good morning. Thank you for taking the time to come to convention!
With each day as your state president, I have become even more grateful for each of you. It has been an honor and privilege to serve as the President of the California State PTA. I have been so proud of the state Board of Directors, the entire Board of Managers and our staff, who have worked so hard this year to raise the visibility of our organization and to listen to your concerns, so we could do a better job for you and help you achieve more at your PTA site.
Throughout my term I have had the opportunity to travel up, down and around the state of California. This has given me the chance to meet with the heart of PTA … and the heart of PTA is our membership. Our members – yes, that includes each of you – who are so willing to give your precious time for the children of California. I ask you, what could have more heart than that? I look around convention and I realize that I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with many of you. You keep me real. You need to know that you absolutely inspire me. You inspire me with your dedication and commitment to children. You inspire me because even though times are tough, you each continue to fight for children!
Our journey in PTA began a lot alike. Mine was when our eldest child boldly raised his hand in kindergarten and said, “My mom will do it.” Have you been there? So then, he comes home all enthusiastic to tell me (or you –because some of you have been there) what he has promised the teacher we will do by tomorrow. Looking into those hopeful eyes, we have lost the battle. There is NO way I or you are going to disappoint this child. And so the PTA journey began. First, with us wanting to make a difference for our own. And then the PTA path led you and me to wanting the same for all children.
My faith in PTA is steadfast. PTA is a remarkable volunteer organization. For more than 112 years PTA has given countless hours willingly to benefit all children. We must ensure our voice for children continues to be even stronger in the future. The best way we can do that is for each of us to commit to bringing in new members. There are people who tell me there are some units that only send in 15 members’ names because that is all we ask for to start a unit. We cannot fall into the pit on focusing on numbers. This is about voices for children. More voices for children at your local schools, more voices for children in California speaking on behalf of children. We need to continue to revitalize this organization and bring in new voices. We need to ensure that the voices we bring into PTA actually represent the diversity of the children we serve. It will only be through our continued outreach and willingness to speak up on crucial issues that we can ensure we will be known as the largest and most dedicated volunteer go-to children’s organization in California. We must remind people that by joining PTA, they inherit a rich history of volunteer advocacy. By joining PTA they have a greater opportunity to have a significant impact on children’s issues at the local, state, and national level. By joining PTA, they ensure we have many voices speaking together on behalf of children. PTA is our vehicle for being heard on children’s issues.
What a term we have all had! I don't have to remind you that as a state we're in the midst of incredibly challenging times. Our economy is struggling, parents and families are working harder than ever to make ends meet. Our children's future and California's future are threatened by deep budget cuts to education and other services. We have all answered the challenge by adding more to our plates, and collectively we have raised our voices to speak up to protect children and those issues that affect them. We see unemployment skyrocketing to the point that it is the highest it has been in California in 25 years. The state budget is in a downward slide, and still the hopes and dreams of children remain at the forefront of our volunteer work. We understand our responsibility.
Children have hopes and dreams for the future, and they are counting on the adults in our society to help them achieve them. So, I see each PTA member throughout California as a dream-keeper! It is up to each of us to dedicate our time and energy to ensure all children have the opportunity to reach their greatest potential. Together, we must continue to send our message by making the connection between a viable economy and investing in our children. It is not just coincidence that during the years that California invested less money in education and services that support our children our great state fell from fifth to seventh and now eighth position as a global economy. There is a direct relationship between investing in children and building a viable economy. Children of today are the workforce of tomorrow. It is not OK to let more children fall between the cracks. It is not OK to let more children go hungry. And it is not OK that the great state of California is willing to balance its budget by putting a whole generation of children at risk.
We are not only the dream-keepers for children; we also have the responsibility to be the truth-tellers. We must be willing to stand up and shout. We must be willing to speak up when it might not be popular to do so and ensure that everyone, especially our legislators, understand that the relationship between cutting services for children and education actually carries a greater cost to society. Remind them about the simple math: Over time as we cut programs or attempt to save money in education, we drive expenses up by 1,000 percent to 2,000 percent in other areas of the budget. Unemployment rates soar, homelessness increases, social services costs rise, and there is a higher demand for police services in our local communities, along with escalating prison populations and associated costs. If that were not enough, it also creates a burden on emergency medical services as families who are without health care insurance will postpone treatment and, only as a last resort, they access care in our emergency centers at an astronomical cost. The cycle continues into the classroom as children with illnesses miss more and more school and fall further and further behind and require a multitude of supplemental educational services, until finally many just give up and leave school. We can do better than that! So, after reminding legislators of the math, bring them back to the fact that this is not a numbers-only game. We are dealing with lives; we are dealing with the hopes and dreams of our children; we are speaking about the future of California!
There was a time when California was truly the Golden State; we understood that children were our No. 1 precious resource. In our Golden State there was a time when Californians recognized that a viable economy doesn’t just happen – you plan, strategize, and invest resources to build one. It is up to us to remind everyone that we must start with a vision and work together to make it happen. If we all pitch in and help, we can build the Golden State dream again. First, we need to look past our own discomfort and reach out and help others succeed. Because when we do that it comes back to us tenfold. There is a huge multiplying factor here that is capable of turning a state completely around. When the whole population joins together, we in turn build our internal capacity, and in the end, the state economy thrives. The essential ingredient in ensuring success is to ask ourselves if we have the will to make it happen. Do we have the will?
It is easy to get lost in the negativism. It is easy to say I am just one person … what can I do? But you must never doubt for a minute that your individual power does make a difference. There is really only one thing that stops any of us; it is our own negative thoughts. When we tell ourselves over and over, we can’t do it, and when we don’t believe we make a difference, we stop ourselves from moving forward. The same is true for the positive, when we believe we move forward. We hold our own power to make a difference. Our own PTA founders knew the power of believing that you could make a difference. They quickly learned that additional strength and power occurred when you increased your numbers. PTA is the power of working together. PTA members make a difference by keeping their eye on what is important. We are the hope for an entire generation of children.
From my heart, thank you for staying strong this year, thank you for your dedication, and thank you for staying focused on the children. PTA members are the children’s dream-keepers, we are also their truth-tellers, and together we have the collective power to make a difference and change the future! The heart of PTA is its membership, and together we have the faith, vision, and tenacity to create a new day for California. A day where we can ensure we live in a state that values our most precious resource … our children.