Obama names basketball buddy and fellow Harvard alum as Education Secretary
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Duncan is the latest addition to a Cabinet roster heavily loaded with graduates of Ivy League institutions as well as Stanford and MIT, who value the transforming power of a first-rate education. UN Ambassador-designate Susan Rice was a Rhodes Scholar; economic advisor Larry Summers was the youngest tenured professor in Harvard history and later president of the university; Greg Craig, named to be White House Counsel, attended Exeter, Harvard, Cambridge, and Yale. Steven Chu, named Monday to be Energy Secretary, did not attend an Ivy League School, earning his doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley. Of course, he did win the Nobel Prize in physics.Skip to next paragraph
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“If we want to out-compete the world tomorrow, we will have to out-educate them today,” Obama said at Tuesday’s presser.
Mr. Obama’s nominee for Education Secretary grew up in the Hyde Park section of Chicago where Obama now lives and attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools where the Obamas’ daughters are students. At Harvard, Duncan was co-captain of the basketball team and an All-American. After an unsuccessful tryout with the Boston Celtics, Duncan moved to Australia and played pro basketball while also tutoring students.
Basketball gives way to education
Basketball gave way to education in 1992 when Duncan return to Chicago to work at the Ariel Education Initiative, an effort to help under-privileged children funded by the investment firm owned by major Obama supporter John Rogers Jr. Duncan met Obama through the president-elect’s brother-in-law and fellow basketball aficionado, Craig Robinson.
At the press conference, Duncan said, “no issue is more pressing than education.” He added,"It is the civil rights issue of our generation.”
A consensus candidate
Senate confirmation for Duncan does not appear to be a problem. In a written statement, Sen. Edward Kennedy, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which must confirm the education nominee, called Duncan a consensus candidate.
"Arne has been a pragmatic and effective leader of Chicago's schools," Kennedy said. "He's brought people together to address difficult challenges and expand opportunities so that every child can succeed."