A new year is a time for reflection and more importantly a time for hope. We will see a momentous change in state and federal government. If anything is certain, it is that leadership matters, now more than ever. When we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives.
We know that leadership is not a position or a title, it is action and example. However, that caveat comes with this admonishment: “In order to lead, you have to know what you believe,” according to my mother, Linda Bowman-Lawhorn.
The federal government is likely to remain as divisive as ever. In Tennessee, we have some exceptional leaders representing our state in Washington, DC. However, our federal government is dysfunctional, and has been for a number of years. Partisanship has become an extreme contact sport in our nation’s capital. That is why states best serve as the laboratories of democracy for our nation.
Limited government, individual freedom, traditional values are likely to remain priorities in state government during the Lee Administration and the 111th Tennessee General Assembly which convenes on January 8th, 2019. The challenge for leaders will be practical and innovative approaches to complex problems. That may require we change the way people think about issues, and promote policies that allow and encourage individuals and institutions to succeed. The state has probably never had this much turnover in leadership and some people are justifiably concerned. However, I see that as an opportunity for leaders to thrive and make the greatest difference on behalf of our citizens.
In education we will need leaders from the Tennessee Department of Education, every local education agency and in each classroom that are tenacious in creating a world of opportunities for every learner. We must remember that our individual actions can positively (or negatively) impact the life of children in this state. The success or failure of the next generation of education leaders will mean real changes in the lives of students and their families. We must make the world better than the one we inherited.
Policymakers and stakeholders must collaborate to the greatest extent possible to ensure that our students succeed, and that our educators get the resources they need with the compensation and respect they deserve. Today’s children are tomorrow’s future, and education is a proven path to upward mobility for all students.
Embrace 2019 with zeal and enthusiasm. It can be a year full of potential. We have an opportunity to renew our belief in our fellow citizens and set a new course in Tennessee that our fellow Americans can seek to emulate. It will require ethical leadership and tireless advocacy for issues that you care about, but the promise of a new year brings the best hope for mankind. The future is yet to be written. Let freedom ring across our state and nation.
JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.