From the President: Victory and Sorrow

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On November 6th, America witnessed an historic occurence. The re-election of President Barack Obama both shocked and elated not only America's voters, but people around the world. Prominent members of the Republican Party had announced that their first priority was to prevent the president from being re-elected.

In fact, it now has been revealed that certain governors and election officials consciously and deliberately conspired to suppress the Democratic turnout to prevent the president's victory. Right wing pundits confidently predicted the president's fall.

The majority of the nation's voters, however, had other ideas. When the votes were counted, President Obama was the clear and undisputed victor.

Words cannot describe the elation, the sense of pride, the overwhelming feeling of triumph that President Obama's supporters experienced. It was an occassion that promted both cries of triumph and tears.

AFT had endorsed the president early, and here at AFT-Maryland we mobilized a small army to get out the vote for the president. Volunteers manned phone banks, canvassed door-to-door, and provided Obama signs for the lawns, windows, and driveways of the state's residents. We registered voters and transported them to the polls. Although Maryland is a "blue" state and was almost assured to vote for President Obama, we left nothing to chance. We got out the vote and our efforts paid off.

We barely had time to celebrate, however, when tragedy hit us here at home. Patricia Cook Ferguson, AFT-Maryland Secretary-Treasurer, BTU Executive Baord member, President of the Baltimore County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), friend, comrade-in-arms, and ardent supporter of equal rights, fair play, and justice, passed away on November 28th after an extended illness.

She died just 22 days after Barack Obama's historic re-election. The joy we feel at the president's victory is diminished by the sorrow we feel at Pat's passing.

Those who knew Pat will remember her exuberance, her fiesty tenacity, her willingness to join the fight for any good cause. Pat was an enthusiastic Obama supporter. She was a veteran of get-out-the-vote efforts, and her presidency of the Baltimore County Chapter of the NAACP is symbolic of her efforts to empower all citizens to secure the full complement of their civil and human rights.  She was the consumate advocate, her dedication fueled by a firm belief in the principles for which she fought.

A listing of the people and causes Pat championed would require volumes and would rival the size of an encyclopedia. She cared for our youth. She cared for the aged. She was concerned about the plight of the incarcerated. She fought for fairness for teachers, paraprofessionals and school related personnel. She walked the line with union members. She was a passionate opponent of discrimination and an ardent advocate for fairness and justice in the workplace, in the courts, and in the Congress.

I cannot remember a time when Pat was not on the front lines of our struggles. It is hard to imagine that she was only 56 years old.

President Obama's victory and Pat's passing remind us of what the elders used to say: "Life will sometimes be sweet; life will sometimes be bitter; and, sometimes, it will be both."

So, this is a time of victory and sorrow. President Obama's victory is sweet; Pat's passing, the most bitter of all. But Pat was a warrior and, for a warrior, there is no better time to rest than after a great victory has been won. We celebrate the president's victory, but we will miss Pat terribly.

True to her memory, however, we will fight on.

Marietta English,
President, AFT-Maryland