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Our Award Winners’ Quotable Quotes

AASA has recognized some of society’s biggest names through its annual American Education Award. These are excerpts from several of their acceptance speeches, which were delivered at the AASA national convention. The year of the award is noted.

Roy E. Larsen, president, Time Inc. (1950):

“The question remains — how can we arouse more millions of Americans to a sense of the school’s importance to the nation and the community? For we must all regain the belief held by the founders of this nation that the enlightened voice of the people is the most precious asset of a community and a nation.”

Harold E. Stassen, president, University of Pennsylvania (1951):

“… deficiencies are represented by the need, first, for greater teaching and emphasis to the youth of the land of the moral and ethical values in human life; second, for an increased stimulation and preparation of the students of today for a role as active informed citizens of the free society of tomorrow; and third, for the definite education of numbers of the most gifted and competent youth of today for top policy leadership of the nation.”

Norman Vincent Peale, minister (1955):

“… the teacher is the greatest defender of freedom that we have in the United States.”

Helen Hayes, actress (1965):

“One wants, above all, to help the brightness edge out of the darkness. I suppose that is why, ever since I can remember, I have had a hero workshop for teachers. … I think that we belong together, working together ....”

Leonard Bernstein, composer, conductor (1967):

“Literacy is the principal road to knowledge; knowledge, the road to communication. Communication is the high road to understanding; and understanding — international and interracial understanding — leads to that sympathy without which coexistence is simply impossible; and coexistence, needless to say, is the primary condition for peace.”

Margaret Mead, anthropologist (1970):

“I am the grandchild and child of educators. My grandfather was superintendent of schools in Ohio who never stayed but one year in one place. He always left with the highest credentials, but the school system and the school board asked him just to please go somewhere else and reform somebody else.”

These are brief excerpts from speeches given by winners of AASA’s Golden Key Award, a unique program launched at the AASA national convention in 1956 that recognized a notable individual in public life alongside the teacher who most influenced that honoree’s life.

David Brinkley, TV news anchor (1964):

“Mrs. Smith deserves the Golden Key … because she is an ornament to her profession and because her profession is an ornament to civilized society — not an ornament, the ornament.”

Walter Schirra Jr., astronaut, and teacher Peggy Crowley (1969):

“Attention needs to be gotten in the first grade and in kindergarten — early in the game — by teachers who are interested in the students, who develop rapport, personal relations with their friends. This relationship is one that we as educators must reestablish.”

Walter Cronkite, TV news anchor (1983):

“Educators are heroes on the cutting edge of one of the crises of our times.”

Marian Kisch is a freelance writer in Chevy Chase, Md. E-mail: mariankisch@verizon.net



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