You would be hard pressed to find a U.S. education secretary who has been more outspoken – and more visible – than Arne Duncan. But amid the push for improved digital learning, promoting the latest acronym-heavy federal initiative (RESPECT, anyone?) and overseeing the massive Race To The Top competitive grant programs, it’s a wonder Duncan has any time for rest or recreation.
However, Duncan will be taking a break Friday from his more official duties Friday to play in the NBA’s annual All-Star Game in Orlando, Fla. Duncan, who played basketball professionally overseas after graduating from Harvard, has said that college teams with low graduation rates should be prohibited from participating in post-season tournaments.
Duncan told the Chicago Sun-Times he's had his eye on New York Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin -- who will be playing in the NBA Rising Stars Game Saturday and is also a Harvard graduate -- for some time.
“I followed Jeremy since he was a kid, and I always knew he’d amount to something,” Duncan told the Sun-Times. “It’s been amazing to watch. It shows that if you keep working and people pay attention, there are plenty of diamonds out there just waiting to be discovered.”
Given his schedule prior to the 7 p.m. tip-off for the celebrity game, Duncan might want to pack an extra Powerbar or two. He’s supposed to participate in a technology summit, followed by the announcement of "Together for Tomorrow," a new initiative aimed at boosting public-private partnerships for schools. Duncan will then help build a playground as part of the NBA Cares All-Stars Day of Service.
As USA Today reported, Duncan credits basketball with giving him a solid foundation for his academic and professional success.
"So much of what I've learned in life, I learned on a basketball court," Duncan told USA Today. "It helped shape me. And it's been formative. It's been a love for a long, long time. It's something I still love."
There’s some irony there, given that many public schools have severely reduced athletics, and in some cases, eliminated them entirely, because of shrinking funding. But Duncan has also spoken candidly about the impact on his life of the neighborhood after-school program run by his mother, which represents exactly the kind of community support network the new federal initiative is seeking to promote.
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