ASBJ Interviews Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan calls the economic stimulus package “a staggering opportunity,” for schools, a phrase that also could describe his role as the new U.S. Secretary of Education.

At 44, the former Chicago Public Schools superintendent is arguably the most powerful education secretary in history with, thanks to the stimulus package, more than $100 billion at his disposal to improve the nation’s schools, universities, and early childhood education programs. With that opportunity, he says, comes the responsibility to make schools better and more responsive to the needs of children.

“Our motto is, ‘We’ve got to work fast, and we’ve got to work smart,’” he said in an interview with Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy.

That motto is similar to the one touted by President Obama, Duncan’s friend and frequent basketball buddy. The two share a lot in common. Both lived in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Both attended Harvard (where Duncan graduated magna cum laude in 1987). Both love basketball (Duncan played professionally in Australia, where he met his future wife). Both are said to be good listeners and problem solvers.

And both face tremendous expectations from a public eager to see the economy rebound and the public schools improve.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

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