Videos & Speeches

Mr. President, I’d like to speak for just a few moments about the Fallen Educators Memorial in conjunction with the National Teachers Hall of Fame located on the campus of Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas.

When someone asks the question: “other than your family, name a person who has made a difference in your life?” the answer has never been my Senator, my Congressman. More often the response is a teacher. That answer speaks volumes about the influence of an educator on the lives of young people. Teachers fulfill a variety of roles by encouraging our children, instilling values, and challenging them. Too often we take for granted this profession, and the people who make education possible are teachers.

Each one of us remembers a teacher. We remember in the first grade or second grade when they helped us sound out the big words or guided our hands as we struggled to make out the shapes of letters.

We remember the middle school teacher or the gym teacher who taught us how to spike the volleyball or sink the winning hoop while playing in the playoffs. We remember the high school science teacher who helped us dissect frogs or build a box made of toothpicks that would protect the egg as it dropped from a two-story building.

Our teachers are our friends, our mentors and our role models. The lessons they teach us stick with us for a long time after we have left their classrooms. Their jobs are never done and educators know that often the last ringing bell of the afternoon, rather than signaling the end of their workday, means the beginning of a new kind of work – grading homework, tutoring individual students or prepping for the next day’s lesson plan.

Educators work round-the-clock on behalf of the kids they instruct. They take on a job that requires more hours than there are in the day because they believe in their students and because they know how crucial their efforts are in seeing these students succeed. I believe we change the world one person at a time, and it happens in classrooms across Kansas and around the country every day.

Teachers often forfeit material gain for the thrill of seeing a student's eyes light up when they discover a new concept or grasp a new idea. Teachers have long understood they truly shape the world by their work, and their greatest product is an educated society.

Unfortunately, each day teachers walk into their classrooms they are also subject to threats of bullying or violence. Far too many educators have lost their lives in the line of their professional duty. Teachers have been killed at the hands of students and many have been killed protecting their students from adults perpetrating violent acts.

To honor these slain teachers, the National Teachers Hall of Fame under the leadership of Director Carol Strickland, created the Memorial to Fallen Educators. The memorial, which was dedicated two years ago at Emporia State University, stands alongside the National Teachers Hall of Fame. I had the honor of visiting the site last September.

Already built and paid for, the memorial lists the names of educators across the country who have lost their lives while working with students since 1764. It is owned and cared for by the National Teachers Hall of Fame and Emporia State University.

 I’ve introduced legislation last year that would designate the Memorial for Fallen Educators as a national memorial. The more than 100 fallen teachers whose names are etched in marble taught in schools across the country. As a nation, we should recognize together the incredible sacrifices they each made because of their dedication to educating young people – their dedication to caring, loving and protecting young people.

This legislation has no cost to the taxpayer and private funds will be used to maintain the memorial. It simply brings the site – the only one in the United States dedicated to fallen educators – the national prestige it merits.

As the Senate considers the national memorials proposed for designation, I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this worthy tribute to our fallen teachers. Anyone who has ever been inspired by an educator should visit the memorial and recognize and remember those honorable lives which have been lost.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.