|VEA President Jim Livingston|
March 30, 2017Welcome to the 2017 VEA Delegate Assembly of the Virginia Education Association in beautiful Roanoke, known as the “Star City.”
This year’s convention theme—50 Years of Progress in Unity—commemorates the merger in 1967 of the VEA with the Virginia Teachers Association. The VTA was formed in 1887 to serve the professional needs of black educators, and to advocate for better conditions in black schools. The VEA was formed earlier, in 1863, and followed the tradition in the segregated South of maintaining a restrictive membership policy for many years. The story of how these two organizations came to merge in 1967 is told in an exhibit in the convention concourse area that I encourage you to visit during this meeting. We commend the extraordinary leaders of the VTA, who showed courage, vision, and an unwavering belief that with unity comes strength. The VEA has transformed considerably in the five decades since merger, and we are now unmistakably an Association committed to the cause of education and justice for all.
Unity must continue to be our goal because our profession and indeed our nation confront so many forces of division. We are faced with unprecedented attacks on our students and our profession. These attacks are politically motivated—and I hope that you will do your part to answer them. As convention delegates, you will have the opportunity to hear from candidates to become Virginia’s next Governor. I hope that as you listen and reflect on their remarks, you ask yourself whether they would move us toward unity behind better education for students or whether they seek to divide us.
Here in Roanoke, you’ll spend the better part of three days debating education policies and practices as well as Association priorities. You’ll pass new business items and new resolutions and approve the Association’s budget for 2017-18. You’ll raise money for the VEA Fund for Children and Public Education. And you will elect a new Virginia representative to the NEA Board of Directors. As all of these activities are important, I hope you also recognize the importance of coming together and working together to ensure the future of our Association and of public education.
I wish you a rich, stimulating, and enjoyable convention experience.