My mother (pictured here at my 50th birthday party, with my son and daughter) was so in love with her students (and with teaching them) that she was fairly bursting with excitement to go to school each morning. Her dedication was one of sheer delight – round the clock work both in school and when she came home. She exuded the kind of empathy and compassion that you can spot a mile away, and she took enormous pride in the accomplishments of her students, who fairly adored her.
My mother was also courageous, feisty, and committed to societal fairness and equity, and a formidable advocate for and with her colleagues. She would not be intimidated and she fought hard to win the kinds of rights that were finally achieved for workers in the US. It was because of these victories that the strength, character, and greatness of our country grew as the middle class grew and prospered, starting in the 1940s post-war years. Having said that, teachers were never, to my mind, paid properly, and in New York public schools, classes had too many students. But teachers were respected in those days – if not monetarily, at least they were respected as to their place in society, and if not by the local governments that paid them, by the parents and their children who valued them and respected them immensely.
Now, however, teachers have become less and less respected and honored, and over the decades, more and more, their wages have continued to reflect the inability of our culture and our society to prioritize what truly made us, for a long time, the most envied nation in the world.
My mother would be getting on a plane to join those teachers throughout America who are finally standing up and demanding fairness, who are striking, although they face the possibility of losing their jobs or even being arrested and sent to jail. She would be prouder than proud of these courageous teachers, predominantly women, who are determined to follow the lead, in some ways, of those amazing children who are demanding that they have a right to go to school and not be afraid of being shot at, wounded, or killed. (Do teachers have that right too? I'd say so.)
This effort by teachers makes me, as my mother's son, thrilled and in awe.
In so many ways, women and children are emerging as the hope for our nation, indomitable spirits that are brave enough to say, "This is wrong, unfair, dangerous, foolish", in effect crying out at last, "The emperor has no clothes."
On behalf of my dynamic, amazing, loving mother, Vera B. Yarrow, let me share my admiration beyond what my words can express. In no more crucial time in the past have we needed such strength, courage, and leadership. My mother's cup would be overflowing to witness these too long delayed teachers' strikes. Honoring her as the person who gave me and taught me absolutely everything, my cup is overflowing too.
Children and teachers: lead us on and we will gratefully follow you! You are the ones we've been waiting for.
In gratitude, peace and solidarity,
THANK YOU FOR THIS MESSAGE, PETER. YOU AND YOUR FAMILY - INCLUDING NOEL AND MARY - ARE ICONS OF PEACE, LOVE AND JUSTICE. YOU SHINE A LIGHT IN A DARK WORLD.