Counsellor Deca, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be able to participate in this celebration of Teach for Romania.
All of us in this room, all of the adults in this room know the importance and value of an education. It gives us the opportunity to realize our ambitions, to contribute to society, to aspire to a full life as a human being. And we all recall as we went through school, teachers that had a particularly profound impact on our ability to learn, even to create an eagerness to learn.
When I was a university student, one of my professors was Matei Calinescu and he certainly conveyed that energy and inspiration to his students, including me. But perhaps even more importantly, when I was a primary and secondary student, there were key teachers in my life that made an incredible impact on my eagerness to learn. And I remember one such teacher, Mrs. Nelson, who was my mathematics and computer science teacher who very much inspired me. And of course we all remember teachers that had the counter effect, that were not inspiring unfortunately.
In the United States, even though we enjoy great wealth and most Americans have the possibility to realize their dreams, both as individuals, as well as citizens, we also have an education system that often unfortunately fails its young children. During the course of our history there where periods where we separated our children by whether they were part of the white majority or the black minority. Having overcome that, we still have schools throughout the country that are not able to ensure that the students realize their full potential. And for that reason there is a constant effort to reform education in the United States but there were also private initiatives and one of the most important was the creation of Teach for America in 1990.
Four years ago, with the leadership and generosity of the Romanian-American Foundation, we helped launch Teach for Romania. Just two weeks ago I had an opportunity to meet three of the teachers in the program. I don’t know if they’re here this morning. We had a board meeting at the Romanian-American Foundation and we took the opportunity to invite three of the teachers who are currently in a program at schools in Calarasi County to tell their story and it was a very inspiring afternoon. We learned about the challenges they face, about chronic violence that occurs not only in families, but also in schools, about indifferent administrators, about teachers using methods that were not impacting their students, were not inspiring their students. And through the training that these teachers have been provided through the Teach for Romania program and of course their own personal energy and commitment to improving outcomes for students throughout Romania, including in some very poor and troubled communities, these teachers working with Teach for Romania are starting to make an impact that’s being felt more and more broadly.
So this morning I just want to convey to you the very strong positive impression that I have received in my limited engagement with the Teach for Romania program. I have had the opportunity during my mission as the American Ambassador to Romania to visit many universities but also some schools in very deprived – often rural – parts of Romania and I can see the difference that individuals can make and that is certainly the case I believe for the teachers that are participating in the Teach for Romania program. So let me thank them, most of all, but also let me thank those that made the investment in the program four years ago and who are continuing the excellent work of Teach for Romania.
Thank you for your attention and patience.