‘Fight Like Hell’

Lily Eskelsen-Garcia and Tom Curran at NEA-Retired Annual Meeting

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  • During first day of NEA-Retired Annual Meeting, attendees hear from NEA leadership, honor outgoing president, and prepare for the future.
2017 RA NEA-Retired Attendees
For two days, 450 members of NEA-Retired are gathered in Boston, Mass., for the organization’s Annual Meeting.

Representing 317,000 NEA-Retired members nationwide, delegates to the organization’s 2017 NEA-Retired Annual Meeting gathered Tuesday in Boston, Mass., for two days of talks and policymaking that will steer the organization through the next 12 months.

Chief among these decisions is the election of a new president as Tom Curran—the group’s outgoing leader—concludes his second three-year term this summer.

John Jensen, the current vice president of NEA-Retired, and Sarah Borgman, a member of the NEA-Retired Executive Council, both campaigned for the organization’s top slot. Delegates cast their election ballots Tuesday afternoon, and will learn results on Wednesday for the office of president and other national leadership positions.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, Vice President Becky Pringle and Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss were on hand Tuesday morning to kick off the first of four sessions.

“I’m going to talk about some very tough things,” Eskelsen García told the event’s 450 attendees, referring to the onslaught of attacks working families have faced from the Trump administration—most recently a budget that cuts $10.6 billion in federal election initiatives overall; eliminates 22 education programs, cuts $1.2 billion from after-school programs; shears special education funding by $133 million; and makes other harmful reductions.

Retirees’ Activism More Necessary Than Ever

Lily and Tom Curran
NEA-Retired President Tom Curran, shown here with NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, will leave office this summer following the completion of his second consecutive term.

But Eskelsen García also sounded a hopeful note. “We are going to leave here knowing how we will fight this, how we will organize, how we will lead. We will be the soldiers on the front line making sure the public good is protected,” she said to the retired educators, reminding them of their responsibility to continue to be activists for young teachers who are new to the classroom, and for their students.

“[They] need you more in the role you’re playing now—as our elder statesmen, as our legacy. God bless you for not going away, for the strength you continue to show.”

Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss sounded a similar tone, telling the retirees, “The most important thing we can do for new hires, is to reach out to them.” She also gave this reminder to Annual Meeting attendees: “We can’t just focus on defense. If we only focus on defense, we will only maintain the status quo. And status quo isn’t good enough for us.”

Rounding out the leadership trio’s appearance, Vice President Becky Pringle urged NEA-Retired members to look back just a generation ago when “middle class families could set aside enough money to sustain themselves in retirement.”

Unlike the narrative of past generation, Pringle told the group, today’s narrative—which affect 10,000 Americans who reach the age of 65 every day—undermines retirement security.

“From the highest office in the land,” Pringle said, “we see one percent getting more and the rest of us getting less.”

Pringle ended by asking retirees to get the word out about the threats facing public education.

‘Your Work is Not Done’

“You may have retired from your jobs, but your work is not done. We still need you … The assault of public education will not stop until we demand that the right of every single child in America is protected so they can live into their brilliance,” Pringle said.

Eskelsen García, Pringle, and Moss also paid tribute to outgoing NEA-Retired President Tom Curran. Eskelsen García said Curran brings “passion and power” and has “made sure our voices are heard.”

In his final formal remarks at the helm of NEA-Retired, Curran urged the retirees to stick together and “fight like hell.” Curran promised that he will continue to stay active and involved—but will do it from the sidelines.