Last week, I invited the advisory committee of the Network for Public Education to hold its first face-to-face meeting at my home in New York City. After an all-day discussion, I invited everyone to do a walk-through of the house, which is a wonderful old brownstone in a landmark neighborhood.

In my fourth-floor office, I pointed out old family and professional photos. Julian Vasquez Heilig asked if he could take a picture of my second grade class at Montrose Elementary School in Houston. “Go ahead,” I said. Little did I know that Julian would turn the photo into a contest on his blog, asking readers if they could pick me out. So far, no one has.

As it happens, today is a big birthday for me. I am 75. I have never felt embarrassed about my age, whether I was too old or too young. I still have huge reserves of energy. I am passionate about the work in which we are all engaged, the task of protecting public education for future generations of children and preventing its privatization.

The great thing about reaching 75 is that I have no ambitions. I don’t want a job. I don’t want to be appointed to anything. I don’t care about prizes. I want to do the right thing. What I want is to live in harmony with my conscience. I want to know that I have done my best every day to advance the cause of better education for all children. I want to tell the truth as best I know how, without holding back. I want to be honest about my mistakes. I want to be quick to admit when I am wrong and quick to apologize.

I could be a better mother, a better grandmother, a better partner to my partner. I could be neater. I should exercise more. I can think of lots of ways I could be better as a person. But it seems to me that at this point, the die is cast. I am who I am. I am 75. I have a great life. I love what I do. I still have plenty of work ahead of me. And I plan to be around long enough to see the terrible scourge–high-stakes testing, teacher-bashing, top-down authoritarianism, profiteering, privatization– that is now afflicting American education come to an end. It will end, and I want to be with you to pop the cork and sip champagne when it does. Bad things don’t last forever. Stay around for the time when we will all celebrate together. It is starting to happen now. The public is getting wise. Everything the corporate reformers try or impose is failing. Soon even they will see what we see.

Every day, every month, every year brings us closer to the day when the status quo collapses, and we can focus on what matters most: children–each of whom is unique–and genuine education–which means far more than test scores.

My greatest birthday present is knowing that there are students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators, school board members, and tireless citizens across the nation who are taking a stand and making a difference.

If you want to do something for me to help celebrate my birthday, today and in the future, take action: join with others to insist on doing what you know is right; speak up; write a letter to the editor or the President; live in fidelity to your professional ethics or your commitment to the well-being of  your child; think of other people’s children as if they were your own, then act. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Do not do to others what you would not want for your own child.

As Vaclav Havel wrote long ago about another country, “live in truth.” Make our democracy work for all of us.