Today, Mike Johnston is a state senator from Colorado, but his passion is education, and it was ignited as a Teach for America teacher in the Mississippi delta in 1997. From that came a searing book, In the Deep Heart’s Core, about the terrible challenges facing teachers and learning in that state. Johnston moved on to become the principal of a school for challenged kids in Colorado.
The graduation rate was 50% when Johnston took over as principal. He managed to hit 100% — with all admitted to college – in the first year. The speech reveals how he did it.
But the speech does a great deal more than that. It is beautifully constructed around 2 stories – the first one illustrating what is possible, and the second what is next, as Johnston says. His real themes are truth and hope. He says children need both from the adults around them – and then kids can do anything. Johnston delivers the speech with passion and real feeling, even choking up at one point as he talks about his kids.