Last Saturday, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings gave the commencement address for the Notre Dame Alliance for Catholic Education Master’s Program. Secretary Spellings discussed the importance of Catholic educators in today’s society:
“99 percent of your students will graduate from high school, and 97 percent will go on to college. That’s a tremendous accomplishment… and it’s a strong reminder that we can’t afford to lose any of these schools. Like I said before, Catholic schools are national treasures. At a time when 90 percent of the fastest-growing jobs require higher education, we need every school in America to have success rates like yours. And with your help, we’re on our way to achieving that goal.”
Secretary Spellings opened her remarks by saying that she was the first mother of school-aged children to serve as Secretary of Education. She then asked, “What took them so long?”
She congratulated the graduates, noting “You’re here because you believe that every life has value and dignity, every child has potential, and every student deserves a quality education. And as a parent and a policymaker, I want to say thank you ¯ job well done.”
Secretary Spellings told the graduates about how one of their classmates, Tony and his father, Joe had traveled down to the hurricane-ravaged Mississippi last fall to rebuild a flooded school.
“[Joe] collected thousands of dollars in donations overnight… and then he drove more than 600 miles to join Tony for the cleanup,” Secretary Spellings informed the graduates. She added, “I know you won’t be surprised to hear that Joe Hollowell is a Catholic school principal.”
Secretary Spellings observed that “there’s an amazing spirit of optimism and generosity in this community—thanks to talented, hardworking educators like you.” She told the graduates that she knows this, because “I’ve seen it myself—my oldest daughter Mary got a top-notch education at a Catholic high school, and I’m proud to say that my younger daughter Grace will enroll there this fall.”
“America’s Catholic schools are national treasures¯and thanks to a terrific faculty and staff, ACE is one of the most successful teacher training programs in our country,” Secretary Spellings said in praise “ACE finds the most talented young people in our nation, including teachers of every race and background—as many men as women. It gives them practical advice for the classroom, plus a terrific support system. And as a result, more than 3 out of 4 graduates stay in education beyond your service to ACE.”
Secretary Spellings took the time to express her happiness that the graduates truly loved what they were doing. “You didn’t take this job for fame or fortune. You took it for the love of the kids, and the love of making a difference. Some people are surprised you made that choice. But I’m not, because I see the same thing you do every time I walk into a classroom: your kids inspire you, they look up to you, and thanks to you, they love learning.” She continued, “As teachers, you’ll leave a legacy unmatched by any other profession. Over the course of your career, you’ll improve the quality of life not just for the children you teach… but for their children, their children’s children, and so on down the line. Over time, you’ll touch thousands of lives, and millions of people will benefit from your work. Every single one of us can think back to a teacher who helped us get where we are today.”
Secretary Spellings talked about how many of the best teachers end up at schools for the privileged and how No Child Left Behind aims at making all schools and students better, and it is thanks in part to Catholic educators. “To Catholic educators, aiming high is nothing new. Long before we set our national imperative, you were working for a moral one.”
Secretary Spellings commended the graduates on their commitment to helping their students achieve success. “To keep the system diverse, Catholic schools reach out to low-income, minority, and immigrant communities. To keep academic quality high, they often work longer days and stretch the school year into the summertime. And to keep tuition affordable, they often set tuition rates lower than the actual cost of educating each child.”
Secretary Spellings left the graduating class of the ACE program with these final words, “As you go forward¯as teachers, and in any other task you put your mind to¯know that faith, family, and friends will never fail you. Mother Teresa said, ‘Love begins at home.’ Love your family, and love your neighbor. Treat people well, including yourself. Exercise. Work for a boss you like and admire. Don’t get consumed by your job. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Even when you’re not sure where you’re heading, don’t be afraid to take risks… and don’t let anything or anyone narrow your dreams for the future. May today be the beginning of a new journey and a great adventure, and may you continue to live well and with purpose.”
Matthew Murphy is an intern with Accuracy in Academia.