Arne Duncan's statement during the October 7 Chicago City Hall press conference on youth violence

The following is the text of the prepared remarks read by Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, at the October 7, 2009 press conference on youth violence at Chicago's City Hall. This material was provided to Substance by the U.S. Department of Education.

Statement of Arne Duncan

Chicago Violence

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stands beside Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley answering questions during the October 7, 2009, City Hall press conference in Chicago. Duncan delivered the prepared text reprinted here almost verbatim during his remarks. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In recent weeks America has seen a side of Chicago that we all wish didn’t exist. The graphic video of Fenger High School student Derrion Albert being fatally beaten is terrifying, heartbreaking and tragic. It shocks the conscience.

This bright and happy young honor student had his whole life ahead of him – but now it has been cut short by senseless violence.

I came here at the direction of the President not to place blame on anyone but to join with Chicago and with communities across America in taking responsibility for this death and the deaths of so many other young people over the years.

People like Blair Holt, Starkeisha Reed, Dantrell Davis – and dozens of others over the years here in Chicago were victims of a society that has somehow lost its way – and allowed too many of our children to devalue life.

Somehow, many of our young people have lost faith in the future. They’ve been denied the love, support and guidance they need – and have grown up believing that their life is not worth anything – so no one else’s life is worth anything either.

More than 100 reporters and TV crews packed into Mayor Daley's press room for the October 7, 2009, press conference. The media included TV crews from France and other countries who came to Chicago because of the international publicity caused by the video of the beating death of Fenger High School student Derrion Albert. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.And that’s a problem we cannot solve with money or by pointing fingers at each other or by looking the other way. We must engage directly with our children – starting at the youngest age.

We must engage with them at every stage of their lives – and teach them that violence doesn’t solve anything and that respect for others is the foundation of a safe and healthy society.

It’s an important lesson that every parent, teacher, and every adult needs to understand so they can pass it on to young people – whether it’s their own children or someone else’s.

Every adult shares this responsibility. Every adult needs to connect – because all children need adults in their lives. It starts with parents but it always continues with others – teachers, coaches, mentor, and friends.

I came here today not merely out of sadness – but with hope and compassion for our kids. I came here because I believe in Chicago’s capacity to deal with this openly, honestly and directly.

Arne Duncan's successor as 'Chief Executive Officer' of Chicago's public schools, Ron Huberman, was not asked to speak and not allowed to take questions during the October 7 City Hall media event. In fact, many reporters didn't know who Huberman was, as he was marginalized to the corner of the crowd carefully lined up behind the mayor's podium during the media event. Huberman is beside the American flag on the left in the photo above, blocked partly by the French TV camera in the foreground of the photograph. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.This is my home – the city where I grew up – where I played ball and tutored children in a church basement on the south side. My friends are here. My family is here. I learned everything I know in these communities and in these schools.

And I learned about character. This is the city that never gives up when it is challenged. This is the city that always unites in the face of adversity.

This is the city that has produced great leaders and thinkers – a great Mayor and America’s first Black President -- men and women who are shaping the future and giving real meaning to words like courage, strength, and pride.

Chicago won’t be defined by this incident but rather by our response to it – so I came here today to join with you and with communities all across America to call for a national conversation on values.

It’s a conversation that should happen in every city in America where violence, intolerance, and discrimination exists.

For reasons that were not explained to the media on October 7, those behind Mayor Daley and Arne Duncan during the press conference did not include any teachers, students, or others from Fenger High School. Fenger became international news following the September 24, 2009, murder of Fenger junior Derrion Albert during a gang fight a half mile from the school following the end of the school day. Behind Duncan (above) are six Chicago aldermen and one community activist who was brought in to the press conference by a French TV reporter who had been trying to cover the day's events at Fenger. The aldermen above behind Duncan are (left to right): Nastaha Thomas, John Pope, Ray Suarez (white hair), Anthony Beale, Ariel Reboyras, and Roberto Maldonado. Almost completely obscured behind Duncan is alderman Carrie Austin. On the far right in the photo above are Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Daley's media chief, Jacqueline Heard. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Chicago is not unique: five students have been killed in Tulsa, Oklahoma already this year. Philadelphia, Seattle, and Miami and many rural communities have also lost schoolchildren to violence in recent weeks.

And the cost goes far beyond the immediate victims and their families. When kids are fearful they can’t learn – and if they can’t learn then we are all at risk because our future depends on the quality of education we give our children.

This morning, the Attorney General and I started the conversation with Mayor Daley and with faith and community leaders. We talked with elected officials and school officials. We also met with Fenger students and parents and the principal.

We plan to go to other cities to meet and talk with people and find ways to protect our children. I also told CPS officials that the Department of Education will give an emergency grant to help restore the learning environment at Fenger.

They can use the money as they choose – for counselors or security or student development activities. The money is not just for Fenger—but for the schools that feed into Fenger as well. But this is not about the money. Money alone will never solve this problem. It’s much deeper than that. It’s about our values. It’s about who we are a society. And it’s about taking responsibility for our young people to teach them what they need to know to live side-by-side and deal with their differences without anger or violence. They must learn to love each other.

Every one of us must take responsibility for this. To those who seek to lay blame on anyone else, I challenge you to ask first what you have done.

I challenge every parent, community leader, and adult to step up and join this conversation. I challenge our students to sit down with each other -- to look at their classmates and find what they have in common. The first responsibility of a healthy society is to find common ground and work together toward our common good. That’s what made America. That’s what made Chicago. And that’s what it will take for communities across this country to bring an end to the violence that has taken the lives of so many young people.

Current Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Rob Huberman was the invisible man during the City Hall activities about "youth violence" in Chicago on October 7, 2009. But Huberman's staff continued to work to spin the media coverage, even as Huberman becomes more and more unwilling to speak directly to the press, except at times when he and his staff are in complete control. Above, following the press conference in the mayor's office, CPS Communications Chief Officer Monique Bond (left) talks with Sun-Times education reporter Rosalind Rossi (right) and Sun-Times editorial writer Kate Grossman (center). Bond has ignored most requests for information from Substance reporters since August 2009, and most recently have ignored a Substance question: How many teachers at Fenger High School are left from last school year? Rumors at the school state that only seven (or nine) adults from the 2008-2009 staff returned to Fenger in September 2009, when the students returned. In the past year, Fenger has had three principals, the most recent of whom is Elizabeth Dozier, who was praised by Arne Duncan during the question and answer following his prepared remarks. But at the time of the Derrion Albert murder, Dozier had been at Fenger for less than eight weeks, the result of the CPS "turnaround" policy that was promoted by Arne Duncan and Ron Huberman. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. I am forever grateful for all that Chicago has offered me. I was deeply honored to serve this Mayor. I am deeply honored to serve this President.

Above all, I am honored to serve the people of Chicago and America -- and today I ask for your hand in partnership as we work together to raise our children safely, to educate them, and to enable them to fulfill their dreams.

Thank you. 

Final edited version of this article posted at October 9, 2009, 10:00 a.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2009 Substance, Inc., Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms — or you can take out a subscription to Substance (see red button to the right) and make a donation. We are asking all of our readers to either subscribe to the print edition of Substance (a bargain at $16 per year) or make a donation. Both options are available on the right side of our Home Page. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502.


July 14, 2014 at 8:59 PM

By: Stephanie blackley

teen violent

When family or friends die by a gun tell an adult.

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