There is nothing like visiting another country to appreciate your own. I love Kenya. It is breathtakingly beautiful. The children are warm, friendly and polite. I thoroughly enjoy working with them. Yet my pride in the contributions of my own country overflows.
I will probably never meet the Americans who have come before me in Kenya. They have left a solid legacy for me to build upon here. They said that they would help the schools and so they did. They helped them build sturdy buildings to protect the teachers and children from the elements. They built a fence for one school to keep away strangers and stray animals. They built computer labs and donated books and teaching supplies. So I thank them for their kindness because I know that it is due to there generosity that people are willing to trust me.
I thank all of the Americans who have come before me. Right or wrong, good or bad, we are a nation of risk takers. We are the ones who challenge the world and stretch it to a new level. The results are not always positive, but so far we have not committed any egregious errors that we cannot correct. I am speaking as a Scientist now. I deeply regret the loss of innocent life during war. We were created by creative, imaginative risk takers and so that is our gift to the world.
A Kenyan yesterday told me how much he respected America for taking care of her people. He admired the infrastructure that we have which warns others of fires and floods and our generosity with helping those who have suffered from disasters. We spoke of Hurricane Katrina and how volunteers mobilized to go door to door to rescue people trapped in their homes. He admired our emergency response teams.
We talked about conflict situations around the world. He mentioned the bombing and the U.S. immediate response to send planes to get our people out of harm’s way. He mentioned that we don’t look at cost or who is going to buy the plane or fuel the plane, our first priority is rescuing our people and taking care of them. He said he admired Americans for providing food and shelter for our people when they are displaced. He told me that everyone in the world envy’s our response to threats to our people.
Americans are highly critical of each other. We may fuss and we may cuss, but the bottom line is that we are all red, white and blue. We divide ourselves into red states and blue states, but when there is an outside threat, the stars and stripes come together. I am proud of our system of Universal education for all children. We may criticize our public schools as we strive to get better and improve, but I, as an educator will proudly rank our schools as the best in the world.
We educate any and everybody with a pulse. We do more to ensure that every American child has an education that anyone in the world. We invest more in remedial programs and programs that help students in poverty have access to the same opportunities as others, than any one in the world. We provide more resources to educate our people than any other country in the world.
America never gives up on her people in regards to education. We have free college courses to senior citizens so that they can continue to expand their minds into old age. We have alternative schools for children who struggle academically. We have foster homes and group homes for children who have been abandoned by their parents and they have the same legal right to an education in my country as any other child. There is no such thing as a child needing to drop out of school because s/he has no parents to pay school fees.
We have more options for parents to choose their children’s education. We can argue until we are red, white and blue in the face about home schooling and charter schools, private schools vs. public schools. But we have them all. As long as we have them all, we have choices. We have Government sponsored GED programs for those students who have not graduated from high school which allows them to still go on to college if they choose.
So education is accessible in the United States. It is always accessible. It is not always free, speaking as someone who has more student loans than she would care to remember. But because I live in the richest, most powerful country in the world, I the daughter of former sharecroppers with a fifth grade education has become a post doctorate researcher. I have been able to do so because of the generosity of the American people as well as the blood, sweat and tears of the American people who came before me.
So I salute our educational system. I salute my fore mothers and fore fathers who had the insight to recognize that the more we educate our people, the better we are able to tackle the problems in the future. So I return to my American schools with renewed energy and faith. I know that there are problems but I know that there are committed people like me who are willing to work together to solve them.
I know our history, the good, the bad and the ugly but I know our present and look forward to our future. So it is a good feeling with which I return. I know that we have to save more children in the United States. I know that far too many of our brightest and most talented are dropping out and finding themselves on welfare rolls and in prison. But I also feel renewed faith, hope and love that we will find our way.