—The first week of September is a special time for me. It marks the beginning of a school year and, as an educator and parent, it signifies the beginning of the next leg of an exciting journey of learning. Another major reason the beginning of September remains so special to me is because it's the time when both my father, who is my first hero, and I commemorate our birthdays. And this year is a monumental occasion as I enjoy our celebration while doing something I love, being a proud Democrat and Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
As a father, educator and councilmember, I see firsthand the power education can have on the lives of Americans from infancy through the golden years. At times it can be all too easy to simply speak about education in well-meaning platitudes; however, it is by far the great equalizer of our time. Education can provide a family with new hope and opportunities that change the course of a family for decades. It is that hope that has made our country innovative and inspiring to other nations and competitive in the global market.
I deeply respect President Barack Obama for making education a national priority and creating opportunities to ensure a college education is possible for all. Under his leadership, funding for Pell grants has doubled, and our investment in scholarships and financial aid has increased. He also placed emphasis on investing in competitive grants to reform community colleges, all to ensure we help students from all walks of life have access to the education they need to obtain the jobs of the future.
It's also President Obama's investment in our economy and society that makes me a proud supporter. He's taking aggressive steps to put Americans back to work, and through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, small businesses and 95 percent of working families saw tax relief. Furthermore, we've been able to add back more than 4.4 million private-sector jobs and seen 29 straight months of job growth — including the first year-over-year gains in manufacturing jobs since 1997. To move us forward, President Obama also streamlined the patent process through the America Invents Act, which cuts wait times by two-thirds to help small business innovators move ideas from the lab to market.
Furthermore, I commend the president for emphasizing the need to strengthen our middle class. While others look for ways to weaken the fabric and social contracts that helped this country become the greatest the world has ever seen, we have a president who knows and feels differently. The Affordable Care Act, passed under the Obama administration, provides protections to our consumers, promotes better care through preventive medicine, and serves as the basic cornerstone of the middle class, allowing families and small businesses to hold insurance companies accountable and transparent. More than 34 million additional Americans now have access to health insurance; pre-existing conditions are reevaluated; and women enjoy unprecedented reproductive freedom.
Through Mr. Obama's leadership, we also see a push forward as a nation less dependent upon foreign fuel and energy sources. By 2025, we will see an increase in fuel mileage proficiency, saving thousands of dollars at the pumps that can be put back into the pockets of our citizens.
All of this isn't easy. It takes difficult choices. And as much as it can be amusing for people to deride the "hope and change" slogan, it is what fuels the American dream for many of us. The time is now and we need only the patience, courage and leadership to bring our strong policies to fruition. So, on Thursday, I will stand and affirm that those of us who still hold on to the American dream are not done, President Obama is not done, and America is not done. We will stand shoulder to shoulder ready to defend the progress we have achieved. It will be a good September, it will be a great November, and it will be an even better next four years.
Calvin Ball, a delegate for Barack Obama at this week's Democratic National Convention, is a member of the Howard County Council and a faculty member in Morgan State University's School of Education and Urban Studies. His email is email@example.com.