Walter Deleon made the following remarks to the Teach for America Corps of 2016 Induction Dinner. He talked briefly about the value of public service, the capacity of everyone to foster change in their communities, and the issues he tackles everyday as Commissioner.
Good evening everyone,
Thank you so much to Teach for America for hosting me, all of my fellow speakers, and to all of you for being here and for committing the next two years of your lives to teaching and improving the lives of students across the DC area.
For those of you who don’t know who I am, my name is Walter Deleon, I’m a proud native Washingtonian, a local college student, and I’m honored to be the youngest elected official in DC history, representing over 2500 constituents in my District.
As a public servant I think often of Cicero’s words— “we are not born for ourselves alone.” It reminds me that the decisions I make don’t just impact numbers in a budget, or words in DC’s code of laws. The decisions I make, and that we all make, no matter how large or how small have an impact on the lives of other people.
But there’s no profession that better embodies the soul of that adage, that “we are not born for ourselves alone,” than teaching. As teachers you will all be part of the greatest form of public service and public good by inspiring, teaching, and improving the lives of our young people.
And I know that because I’ve been fortunate to have so many teachers throughout my life that have inspired me to be better and do better. One of those teachers was Vanessa Ford, my 6th grade science teacher, who happens to be a TFA alumna from the 2002 corps. I was fortunate that she saw the potential in me and our families stayed close through the years.
As my Junior year in high school came to a close she connected me with the office of Tommy Wells, a now-former member of the DC Council. I was able to snag an internship with his office for the summer thanks to her and as my Senior year in high school started I worked with his campaign for Mayor. That was my foray into public life, and the snowball effect of her actions are part of the reason why I decided to stay in DC for university, run for office in 2014, and why I’m the frontrunner in my bid for the city-wide seat on the DC school board.
Ultimately, Vanessa didn’t just kickstart my political career, she made me realize that even the smallest of actions can change a person’s life for the better, and that we should all aspire to stand up for others, knowing that others have stood up for us.
Over the course of your teaching careers, you’ll be an enormous part of your students’ lives. Not only will you see many of them just about everyday, you’ll get to know them, their challenges, their dreams. You’ll get to know THEM.
And I hope that amid the good times, bad times, the ups and downs, you’ll be fulfilled at the work you do everyday. Because there’s no greater career that embodies the fact that “we are not born for ourselves alone.”
Thank you and best of luck.