Thank you, North Dakota, for allowing me to be our state’s next Superintendent of Public Schools! I sincerely appreciate each and every vote I received on today’s ballot, as they were also votes of confidence in my ability to ensure North Dakota students graduate with the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed after graduation. I am humbled at the number of people who have given their time, their talents and their support to help make this happen.
My passion for public education has been clearly evident throughout my 22-year career. I look forward to bringing this same passion to the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and working to strengthen our public education system, seek positive outcomes for our state’s education challenges, and ensure our students graduate fully prepared to succeed and flourish in life. Every decision, policy and practice of the Department of Public Instruction must work toward that end—our children must come first.
This belief is well-illustrated by an excerpt from “How are the Children?”, a speech by the Rev. Dr. Patrick T. O’Neill:
“Among the most accomplished and fabled tribes of Africa, no tribe was considered to have warriors more fearsome or more intelligent than the mighty Masai. It is perhaps surprising, then, to learn the traditional greeting passed between Masai warriors was ‘And how are the children?’ It is still the traditional greeting among the Masai today, because it acknowledges the high value that the Masai always place on their children's well-being. Even warriors with no children of their own would always give the traditional answer, "All the children are well." Meaning, of course, that peace and safety prevail, that the priorities of protecting the young, the powerless, are in place. That Masai society has not forgotten its reason for being, its proper functions and responsibilities. ‘All the children are well’ means that life is good. It means that the daily struggles for existence do not preclude proper caring for their young.”
I wonder how it might affect our own children's welfare if in our culture, in our state, we took to greeting each other with this daily question: "And how are the children?" If every adult among us, parent and non-parent alike, felt an equal weight for the daily care and protection of all the children in our community, in our town, in our state, in our country... Could we truly say without any hesitation, "The children are well, yes, all the children are well."?
I look forward to asking this question at the DPI and urging employees to pass it along to each other a dozen times a day. It will help to focus how members of the DPI approach their work with education and, in turn, make a difference in the reality of how our children are thought of and cared for.
Our children must be our top priority. I look forward to working with Dr. Sanstead to ensure a smooth transition, and hitting the ground running on my first day in office. We must make sure public education prepares our kids for success after graduation—our kids, their education and their futures is job #1.