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Obama names basketball buddy and fellow Harvard alum as Education Secretary

By / December 16, 2008

Jake Turcotte


Barack Obama named his longtime basketball buddy and fellow Harvard alum Arne Duncan to be Education Secretary, a position of considerable importance in an administration loaded with Ivy League grads who value intellectual achievement.

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Duncan has headed the Chicago public school system, the nation’s third largest, since 2001.  He has a reputation as an educational reformer, and test scores rose during his tenure.  “When it comes to school reform, Arne is the most hands-on of hands-on practitioners,” Obama said at a Tuesday morning press conference.

The announcement of Duncan’s nomination was made at Dodge Renaissance Academy on Chicago’s West Side, a site cloaked in symbolism.  Duncan closed the once failing school and later reopened it as both a school and teacher training facility.  The result, according to the Dodge web site," in math, 79.4% of our students meet or exceed state goals; in reading, 69.7% of our students meet or exceed the goals.”

My friend, Arne

Obama referred Duncan as “my friend, Arne Duncan.”  The nominee’s closeness to the president-elect also can be seen in the fact that he was among those who played basketball with Obama on Election Day. He has played pick-up ball with Obama since the 1990’s.

At the press conference, the president-elect quipped that, "I did not select Arne because he is one of the best basketball players I know.”

The Education Secretary-designate shares the president-elect’s view that the No Child Left Behind school accountability law, passed with bi-partisan support during the Bush administration, needs to be redrawn with greater flexibility.  Obama has said he supports accountability provisions in the law that mandate improvement.

Loaded with Ivy Leaguers