Obama nominates Duncan for SecEd

President-elect picks longtime, local friend to become next Secretary of Education.


Thomas Schaller
December 16, 2008 9:57PM (UTC)

President-elect Obama has nominated Arne Duncan, CEO of the Chicago Public School system, for Secretary of Education. A partial transcript of Obama's remarks, as prepared for delivery:

In the next few years, the decisions we make about how to educate our children will shape our future for generations to come. They will determine not just whether our children have the chance to fulfill their God-given potential, or whether our workers have the chance to build a better life for their families, but whether we, as a nation, will remain in the twenty-first century, the kind of global economic leader that we were in the twentieth. Because at a time when companies can plant jobs wherever there’s an Internet connection, and two-thirds of all new jobs require a higher education or advanced training, if we want to out-compete the world tomorrow, we must out-educate the world today.

Yet, when our high school dropout rate is one of the highest in the industrialized world; when a third of all fourth graders can’t do basic math; when more and more Americans are getting priced out of attending college – we are falling far short of that goal.

For years, we have talked our education problems to death in Washington, but failed to act, stuck in the same tired debates that have stymied our progress and left schools and parents to fend for themselves: Democrat versus Republican; vouchers versus the status quo; more money versus more reform – all along failing to acknowledge that both sides have good ideas and good intentions.

We cannot continue on like this. It is morally unacceptable for our children – and economically untenable for America. We need a new vision for a 21st century education system – one where we aren’t just supporting existing schools, but spurring innovation; where we’re not just investing more money, but demanding more reform; where parents take responsibility for their children’s success; where we’re recruiting, retaining, and rewarding an army of new teachers; where we hold our schools, teachers and government accountable for results; and where we expect all our children not only to graduate high school, but to graduate college and get a good paying job.

These are precisely the goals to which Arne Duncan has devoted his life – from his days back in college, tutoring children here in Chicago; to his work at the helm of a non-profit remaking schools on the South Side; to his time working for the Chicago Public Schools, where he became Chief Executive Officer of this city’s school system.

Afterward, Obama joked that Duncan's selection continues a pattern of assembling the best basketball-playing administration in history. (Obama and Duncan, who appears taller than the president-elect, plays hoops together.) The nation awaits the appointment of Michael Jordan to chair the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

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Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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