Betsy DeVos after winning confirmation as Secretary of Education by a historic 51 to 50 vote in the Senate was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence, who cast the tie-breaking vote, on Tuesday night.
Today is day one for DeVos as Secretary of Education. She toured U.S. Department of Education buildings in Washington, DC, met with senior leadership and addressed the department staff.
After being introduced by Philip Rosenfelt, the former acting Secretary of Education and current acting general counsel for the Department, DeVos spoke to staff a little under eleven minutes. She didn’t touch on policy. She told the staff she “listens more than she speaks.” She also promised a open door policy at the Department. She also addressed the confirmation process.
So, let’s turn to recent headlines. There’s no need to pull punches. For me personally, this confirmation process and the drama it engendered has been a…bit of a bear.
In all, seriousness, for many, the events of the last few weeks have likely raised more questions and spawned more confusion than they have brought light and clarity. So, for starters, please know, I’m a “door open” type of person who listens more than speaks.
I am here to serve—with you. I am committed to working with everyone and anyone —from every corner of the country, from every walk of life, from every background, and with those who supported my nomination and those who did not—to protect, strengthen and create new world-class education opportunities for America’s students.
Let’s acknowledge: We’ve just come through one of the most bruising, divisive elections in modern times. And that’s okay. Our republic is resilient. We as a people are resilient.
Often, the morning and evening news cycles make it hard to imagine what might unite our nation. The rhetoric and the words can get hot and heated, and the animosity often seems unending. And that’s okay, too. People are passionate and moved by deeply held views. We are a pluralistic culture and we must celebrate our differences.
But all of us here can help bring unity by personally committing to being more open to, and patient toward, views different than our own.
She called on those with differing opinions to find common ground and left her staff with a challenge.
The obstacles between our nation’s students and their pursuit of excellence can all be overcome. They’re human problems. All too often adult issues can complicate and get in the way of a focus upon those we serve. The good news is: We can all work together to find solutions and make them happen.
I’m reminded of the ancient counsel to act justly, to love kindness and to proceed humbly. No matter your outlook, I’m betting we can all agree that acting justly, being compassionate and moving forward humbly on behalf of the future of our nation – America’s students – is a good place to start.
So I ask every educator, every parent, everyone involved in educating our nation’s students, and all of us here: Let us set aside any preconceived notions and let’s recognize that while we may have disagreements, we can –and must—come together, find common ground and put the needs of our students first. And when we do disagree, let us set an example by being sincere and honest, passionate but civil, while never losing sight of our shared mission.
To everyone on this team, my challenge to you is simple: Be bold, think big, and act to serve students.
And I will promise you this: Together, we will find new ways in which we can positively transform education.