Otha Thornton, the newly installed president of National PTA (NPTA) – the oldest child advocacy group in our country – is a senior operations analyst with General Dynamics in Fort Stewart, Georgia. He is a retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel and his last two assignments were with the White House Communications Agency and United States Forces-Iraq in Baghdad. Thornton earned the Bronze Star Medal for exceptional performance in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom 2009-2010.
Previously, Thornton served on National PTA’s Board of Directors, Legislative Committee, Membership Committee, and Executive Search Committee. During his time with Georgia PTA, Otha served on the Board of Directors as legislative chair and as an Advisory Group member for Georgia’s Partnership for Excellence in Education.
Thornton is making history as this historical advocacy group’s first African-American male president! He started his inaugural address at the 2013 National PTA Convention in Cincinnati by thanking God and his family-including his wife, Caryn, and his mother. He then quoted the great Dr. Benjamin E. Mays – a former president of Morehouse College (Otha’s alma mater) and a spiritual mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – who believed that the purpose of education included building character and serving mankind. Otha also gave homage to his predecessor, Betsy Landers and to the National PTA founders whose organizations merged in 1970 between the National Congress of Parents and Teachers and the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers, forming today’s National PTA.
“This is an exciting opportunity, and I am proud to have been elected to lead the charge for parents and teachers across the nation, and to ensure that our children have the tools and support they need to succeed,” Thornton said. “As president, I am committed to expanding PTA’s membership, leadership development and advocacy efforts to strengthen the association and fully empower families, teachers and communities to advocate for all children.”
Otha Thornton describes himself as a “servant leader“ who values listening, collaborating, diversity and inclusion at all levels. He recalled a comment that one of his superiors used in the military, which was to “Make sure your video matches your audio.” He affirmed to PTA that our hard currency is our voting and our voice! “If I were you,” he stated, “I would not sit on the sidelines and complain! Get in the game!” He also suggested that we become more like players of “chess” instead of “checkers”, being committed to the long haul and not just show up at school when there is trouble. Volunteering in the schools help our children and our schools. “Accountability starts at home, but not all have that.” So PTA serves as their advocate as well, he elaborated. “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.”
“The PTA is critical in bringing the voices of parents to the forefront on issues, working together to strengthen school safety, provide kids with healthy, nutritious lunches and implement consistent learning goals across the country,” Thornton said. “Parents are an essential voice in the education reform debate, and we need to be much more than an audience. We need to be partners in the education of our children, and I am looking forward to engaging with diverse communities across the country to ensure that all parents have a voice in their children’s education.”
This speech followed his reception held the prior evening at the Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Harriet Tubman led slaves through this network of safe houses – the Underground Railroad – to freedom. I believe PTA helps to lead all children and parents to acquiring a better education – which is the highway, railway and runway to freedom. We are looking forward to continuing this journey with Otha as its conductor!
The NPTA Convention closed with scintillating music by Tje Austin (pronounced tI) who appeared on The Voice and is from Texas-the site of the 2014 NPTA Convention! He did a fabulous remake of What’s Love Got To Do With It originally by Tina Turner. He has a unique style reminiscent of John Legend with a hint of Eric Benet for good measure. Now Mr. Thornton, I believe Tje has matched the audio with the video.
- Blogging at 2013 National PTA Convention in Cincinnati (debateandswitch.wordpress.com)
- First African-American man becomes national PTA president (wlwt.com)
- 1st African-American Names As Head Of The National PTA (djsdoingwork.com)