This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.
My parents should have named me Pamela, Pauline or Priscilla. Why? Because I like alliteration and I am a pessimist.
Perhaps that is why Percy Shelley's famous 1818 poem "Ozymandias," in part concerning the inescapably fleeting nature of political power, has long been one of my favorites. The piece is about the eventual decay of all humans, including our leaders, and the kingdoms they create.
"Ozymandias" is a cautionary tale of hubris, a lesson that those who rule or represent us, and the power they wield, is momentary.
Being not only a pessimist, but also a contrarian, I cannot fully accept this. There must be a way to exert influence beyond one's reign or term. And, of course, there is. Education.
I have had the privilege of teaching law students for three years. And to my former students, let me say, you knock my socks off. To use another cliché, you have taught me the true definition of the phrase "bursting with pride." You are friends, mentees, and mentors.
Each of you did something vitally important: you walked into a classroom. And listened. And questioned. After one, two or three hours, I think and hope we all learned something. Painful as it may have been at times, to me that's magic. That is also a legacy, for all involved.
So what's my point? Last week the Obama administration stated that 82 percent of America's public schools are considered to be "failing" under the No Child Left Behind Act. That's a failure of more than just three in four public schools.
Legislators, there is a way to avoid dear Ozymandias's fate. As the current, seemingly endless, wrangling over the budget continues, please remember, there is a route to strengthen and lengthen your legacies. Support smart, effective education programs.
What exactly is "smart" education? I don't know or pretend to know the details of how the federal and state governments can and should best support education. I do know that the "American Dream," becomes a tragically ironic catch phrase if education, like so much of politics, becomes pay-to-play.