The Future of This Nation Depends on Teachers


Thank you to Dr. Hall for sharing this great article on our beloved profession!


Recently, I was asked to speak at an event focusing on the future of our nation. While there are clearly many approaches one might take to developing such a speech, my approach followed from my long-standing career as an educator. To my mind, more so than any other members of society, educators (of all kinds) are those among us who hold the responsibility of cultivating the next generation of citizens and leaders.

So if you are worried about the future of our nation, I suggest that you take a step back and think about the young people in your world. Because they are the future leaders of this world. And I suggest that you think about the many teachers that they will have during their decades-long education because these are the folks who will shape the approach of these young people to nearly everything.

I have been teaching college students since 1994 – and let me start by saying that I have very high expectations for my students. Sure, I want them to learn the content of whatever I’m teaching and write great papers and all that – but as someone who sees teaching as largely about shaping the next generation, my take on teaching always goes well beyond the classroom. In my work as a teacher, ultimately, I charge my students with the following:

I tell them that they are the future leaders of this world. And it is up to them to leave this world a better place because of their having been in it. If you are a student of mine, I tell you that your job here is ultimately to leave a positive mark – and I never let my students forget that.

Attributes of Great Leaders

So what kinds of attributes does one need to leave a positive mark on this world? What are the attributes of a great citizen and a great leader? If you want to be a great leader, then what qualities do you need to develop?

Here is a short list:

  • You need to work hard – because there is no substitute for that.
  • You need to be honest and transparent – because people need to be able to trust you.
  • You need to be principled, having a strong set of guidelines that shape your actions – because people need to know where you stand.
  • You should treat others with respect – because, at the end of the day, we are all in this together.
  • You need to work well with others, in spite of differences – because people come in all shapes and sizes – and our leaders need to understand this fact.
  • You need to be selfless – putting the needs of others before your own needs – because we don’t really need selfish leaders right now.
  • You need to develop an approach to life where you are ultimately working for the greater good – just because …

To my mind, these are the attributes that we must require of our leaders. And we must not settle for anything less. And it is largely up to the teachers in our world to help cultivate these qualities in the next generation – for the good of us all.

Bottom Line

The future of our nation is less clear now than at any point that I can remember. As someone who focuses on practical solutions to problems, I’m not very interested in looking back – rather, I’m interested in how we, as a nation, are going to get back on track. I am looking forward. I’m interested in how we are going to come together as a people successfully in the future.

Toward this end, I say we look to our educators. Educators in the United States comprise a foundational resource for the future of our nation. If you are an educator, I say that you should always keep in mind how influential your work is in shaping the future of this world. And if you are a bright young person looking for a way to make a positive mark, let me tell you this: In the teaching professions, the potential to leave a positive mark on this world is enormous. You really can’t do much better than the field of education when it comes to having a significant impact on the future.

Concerned about the state of the world and interested in how you might be able to help build a brighter future? I say you do whatever you can to support education – the educators among us are those who are most directly building that future.

To all the teachers out there, I say this: Thanks so much for all of your selfless effort on behalf of both our children as well as the greater good. The world needs you right now more than ever.