In my career I have met presidents, senators, congressmen and women, generals, admirals, and some of the most elite soldiers in the world. I have worked for brilliant scholars, strategists, and leaders. In late 2015, when I heard Denise Juneau planned to run for Congress, I knew I would again find myself assisting a brilliant mind and person. I was never disappointed, until that fateful November 2016 election.
My mother has been a teacher longer than I have been alive (over four decades). She has seen administrators and education policies come and go in all of that time. She is a strong supporter of teacher unions and teachers controlling their classrooms. There is one person she still admires and boasts about: Denise Juneau.
When No Child Left Behind made it clear that Native American and impoverished rural communities might leave children behind, one person stood up for those kids–Denise Juneau. When Montana graduation levels started to falter, one person stood up and said this has to stop no matter what the personal cost to her legacy–Denise Juneau. When Congressman Ryan Zinke seemed the clear favorite to win re-election despite all of the not-so-hidden skeletons in his closet, one person said she would face personal adversity to run against him–Denise Juneau. One person put their own personal demons up against him, whether it was an old DUI (dog whistle alert), her personal relationship with another amazingly brave woman, and her Native heritage–Denise Juneau.
My friend Denise came up short in that election and I have my own personal grudges as to why that happened. There are many of you who should feel ashamed for not voting for her. You are seeing this every day now in the policies that Zinke, now Secretary of Interior, has turned back on this great state. To all of you who turned their backs on Denise, one of Montana’s finest, I hope you wake up every hour on the hour for the rest of your lives. Montana’s failure to elect her to take the mantle of Jeannette Rankin is a loss from which we shall never recover.
The University of Montana had the chance to bring aboard this brilliant mind and recruiting dream. It shrugged and the university continues to flounder. Imagine a system with Denise Juneau and Waded Cruzado as the center of recruitment and vision for the state’s university system. Yet another chance lost inertia and hope.
So the city of Seattle has picked up where Montana could not. Its schools selected her in a unanimous 7-0 decision to become the next superintendent for the Emerald City education system. Their gain is our loss. I hope the best for my friend, Montana’s treasure, and a national moment lost. May history reset itself in this darkest of times. From Browning to Harvard to Seattle. It is possible. Denise has always shown so many the way. We just need to keep those opportunities here.