Princeton educator Eddie S. Glaude Jr. began his keynote address at the Dr. Effie H. Jones Memorial Luncheon by calling on the James Baldwin’s “A Talk to Teachers.”
Quoting Baldwin from his October 1963 work, Glaude said: “Let’s begin by saying that we are living through a very dangerous time. Everyone in this room is in one way or another aware of that.”
Glaude, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Princeton University, was the main speaker at Friday’s annual lunch affair at the AASA national conference in San Diego. About 180 conference participants were on hand in the San Diego Convention Center.
He invoked the words of Baldwin throughout the address, citing the similarities in the precarious situation America finds itself in today and the one that she faced nearly 60 years ago. “We stand on a knife’s edge,” Glaude contended, “and now is the time for sides to be taken, for hard questions to be asked and for courage to be exhibited.”
Glaude acknowledged that the education leaders in the room knew more about schooling than he did, but said he knows that “you have to love the children you serve” or success will be impossible.
Drawing a connection from Baldwin back to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance,” Glaude asked educators what kind of students do we graduate into the world when we are less concerned with their curiosity, imagination and individuality and more concerned with their conformance, particularly when that conformity yields the same inequities our leaders claim to address.
Now is the time, Glaude said, to imagine and envision the possibilities of what our society can be.
“The old world is dying and you, superintendents, are the midwives to the new world our children will create,” he said. The challenge Glaude posed to attendees was to imbue in students “the self-reliance to know that they are the powerful, transformative figures that must save our country.”
Lastly, the Effie Jones luncheon audience was encouraged to “teach and to lead with passion for all children” as Dr. Effie H. Jones did.
The Dr. Effie H. Jones Memorial Luncheon celebrates the legacy of the former associate executive director of AASA prior to her untimely passing in 1996. The luncheon also honors school leaders who have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of equity and to the advancement of women and people of color. This year’s honorees were Steven Webb, superintendent of Vancouver Public Schools in Washington and the late Joe Hairston, associate professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and co-chair of the AASA-Howard University Urban Superintendents Academy.
See the official AASA press release for more about the annual award.
(Bryan Joffe is an AASA project director.)