2020 NEA Representative Assembly
2020 Representative Assembly

More than 7,000 NEA members from across the country gather annually to set policy and chart the direction of the Association at the NEA Representative Assembly. Due to COVID-19, the 2020 event was held virtually on July 1-3. More than 100 Utah delegates participated, representing all Utah UEA members.

Utah’s Own Lily Says Goodbye, Educators Vow to Help Lead Nation Through Crisis at 2020 NEA RA

By NEA Writer Tim Walker

Of all the events and activities that ground to a halt amid the greatest public health crisis in the nation’s history, the 2020 National Education Association Representative Assembly (RA) wasn’t going to be among them. On July 2 and 3, the more than 7,000 delegates gathered remotely (of course) and the agenda was streamlined. But the show – the first all-virtual RA in NEA’s history – went on.

“We have masks, social distancing, and disinfectant,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said, referring to the podium at NEA headquarters she would be sharing only with NEA officers. “Because nothing, absolutely nothing, not even a global pandemic, is going to stop the National Education Association from doing its work.”

The RA theme this year was “Our Democracy; Our Responsibility; Our Time.” In 2020, the stakes are just too high for educator voices to go silent. The pandemic has bought the country to its knees, triggering an unprecedented economic crisis that is impacting millions of educators and students. The country may finally be confronting the legacy of institutionalized racism. And the destructive DeVos-Trump school privatization agenda continues to undermine our public education system.

As NEA Vice-President Becky Pringle put it in her opening remarks: “Delegates, it’s crunch time.”

This year, delegates also had to bid farewell to outgoing NEA President and Granite Education Association member Lily Eskelsen García, whose second three-year term ends on August 31. Video tributes to Eskelsen García (and NEA) poured in from everyone from Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Rep. James Clyburn, AFT President Randi Weingarten and Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show.”

Eskelsen García is a leader who is “undaunted by naysayers,” Pringle said in her introduction of the NEA president. “Unfazed by those who believe something is impossible. You are undeterred by those who think you can’t.”

In her final RA keynote, Eskelsen García urged educators everywhere to continue doing what they have been doing for decades: to help lead the nation down a more equitable, just, and prosperous path. The nightmare of the past three and a half years must come to an end, she said.

“We are educators and public servants. We are unionists. We are activists. We’re patriots…. We are called on to act. So, what will you do? What will you do for your colleagues; your students; the families you love; the communities where you live? What will you do as we face the most dangerous threat to our democracy that we’ve ever faced?” (Watch the full speech)

Utah State Night Activity

Park City educators Anna Martinez Williams and Melanie Moffat received the George I. Sánchez Memorial Award in human and civil rights from the National Education Association. Williams and Moffat were honored along with other human rights champions during the first-ever virtual NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards celebration July 1. Watch the event here.