President Barack Obama just called into the National Education Association's Representative Assembly with a message of thanks for the union's support.
I wish I could give you a better account of what the President had to say, but the sound quality of the telephone call, which was broadcast over the convention hall's speakers, was so garbled it was hard to make heads or tails of it. Fortunately, I did manage to copy off a few snippets of the President's address from the hall's close-captioned TV screens:
• "The folks on the other side, they want to take us back to the policies that didn't work in the last decade, they want us to go back to a policy that just does big tax cuts for the wealthiest, [to] cut education spending, cut investments in all the things that help us grow."
• "I'm running for reelection to make sure every American has a chance to get a great education."
• "Let's face it, the other side has a very different view. ... [W]hen we took office we immediately worked to save 300,000 educator jobs. My opponents mocks the idea that we need more teachers. He says we need to help the American people instead. He thinks those things are the opposite. He doesn't understand that you can't help America without helping education."
• "Listen, you know the work you guys do every single day, the sacrifices you make are so important to our country ... and everybody in that hall, whether you're a teacher, whether you're part of the staff that is keeping our schools safe and clean, and helping to make sure that everything happens for those kids when they arrive in the morning, the truth of this is that you didn't get into this business because you wanted to make a lot of money, you got in it because you love kids and your community. But you should also be able to raise a family and enjoy a middle-class lifestyle."
In response, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel promised that the union would put its full support behind the president's re-election: "We believe in you, Mr. President, and we're behind you all the way."
There's been some disappointment that Obama didn't address the delegates in person—a new business item coming up for discussion later deals directly with this issue—but that wasn't on display during the call. When Van Roekel announced that Obama was on the phone, the hall erupted in the loudest cheers we've heard all week.