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Public Statements

Honoring the Life of Sandra Feldman

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

HONORING THE LIFE OF SANDRA FELDMAN -- (Senate - September 28, 2005)


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Sandy Feldman at her untimely passing. We have lost a dedicated educator, a proud labor leader, a committed reformer, and someone my wife Teresa, and I were so proud to have as a friend in our lives.

From her early days as a civil rights advocate, Sandy had an unshakeable sense of justice and fairness. Sandy did not just talk about helping teachers and their students--she actually did it. While her career spanned more than four decades, Sandy's commitment grew out of her early work in the civil rights movement. An advocate for civil rights and social justice, she was an activist in the Freedom Rides and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was her firsthand knowledge of the power of an excellent teacher that led Sandy to a lifetime of activism. Sandy understood the importance of quality public education and the wealth of opportunities it can unleash for every student, regardless of who they are or where they're from.

``Created my future,'' that is what Sandy always said about growing up in Brooklyn and the public schools and libraries she spent her childhood in. Sandy's commitment to education was fueled by her childhood experiences and her dedication to bettering the lives of students and teachers. Beginning as a second grade teacher, Sandy quickly became a union activist when she led the teachers at her elementary school to organize. In 1986, Sandy became president of AFT's largest affiliate, New York City's United Federation of Teachers, UFT. During her years as UFT president and then since 1997 when she became president of the AFT, Sandy earned the respect of Presidents, of her colleagues, and of many of us in Congress.

Calling early childhood education ``getting it right from the start,'' Sandy consistently called for greater investment in public education and a greater emphasis on high standards and increased accountability. Sandy's focus on early childhood education led her to introduce a program that would provide extended learning opportunities for disadvantaged students before and after the normal kindergarten school year. Within a few years, Sandy's program, Kindergarten-Plus, had been introduced as Federal legislation, passed or considered in several State legislatures, and passed into law in at least one State.

My hope is that her tragic passing after a courageous battle with cancer will inspire all of us to do just what Sandy fought her entire life for--to make sure we are getting it right from the start and to stand by our children and our teachers. Sandy was an amazing American. I will miss her wisdom and her counsel very much. Our hearts go out to her husband Arthur and their family in this difficult time.

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