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LBJ School Alumnus and U.S. Secretary of Education Participate in Dedication of Education Department 'Official Tree'

LBJ School Alumnus Transports Texas Live Oak Tree to Washington, D.C. for Planting

LBJ School Alumnus Jose Rodriguez (MPAff, 2008), an elementary school teacher in Cedar Park, Texas, traveled to Washington, D.C. to deliver a Texas live oak tree to the U.S. Department of Education. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan  participated in the planting ceremony, which took place on April 26 outside of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building.

Rodriguez, who teaches at Knowles Elementary School in Leander ISD and was a Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow in 2009-2010, says that the Texas live oak tree is depicted on the department’s official seal.

Jose Rodriguez“I chose an oak tree because, after looking closely at the tree depicted on the department’s seal, I know I had seen that tree before,” said Rodriguez. “I had seen that same tree in Central Texas where our 36th President Lyndon Baines Johnson, a teacher, called home. In addition, the Texas live oak is the kind of tree that surrounded LBJ when he signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act 46 years ago outside his elementary school in Stonewall, Texas.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan participated in the planting of the tree outside of the department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Duncan also announced plans to create a Green Ribbon schools program that will be run by the U.S. Department of Education with the support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The program will promote public schools that put forth exemplary efforts to raise environmental literacy, reduce a school’s environmental footprint and increase a school’s environmental health.

Lynda  Johnson Robb, daughter of President Johnson, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley were also in attendance.

According to Rodriguez, as the official tree of the department of education, the Texas live oak tree will serve as a living memorial to the department’s mission to promote student achievement and foster educational excellence, a mission that is very close to Rodriguez’s heart.

“Education means the world to me,” said Rodriguez. “My parents came to this country as undocumented, unskilled workers. My parents always told us that while they had no riches to pass on to us, they would support our education unconditionally. From my parents, I learned never to give up on school. I now pass on this same sentiment on education to my own children and students.”

In addition to the Department of Education, the event was sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Chegg Text Book Rentals and American Forests.

Photo slideshow of the tree dedication and planting.