All my life, I have been aware of the impact that violence – and especially gun violence – has on children, families and communities. Young men who I got to know in pickup basketball games in Chicago – just kids, as I was myself back then – were buried far, far before their time, killed in moments of senseless stupidity.
Early on a recent morning, I visited Hart Middle School in the Anacostia neighborhood of DC, literally on the way from home to my office. I simply asked the students to tell me their experiences, and they bravely and honestly did – even with a video camera in the room. They talked about the family members they have lost – every single one of them knows someone who has been shot. They talked about their fears that an unspeakable tragedy like Newtown could happen at their own school, and their doubts they would survive to live a full lifetime. And they talked about the senselessness of the violence—people getting shot over a pair of shoes.
These are kids who deserve the best. They’re trying to do all the right things, and they deserve more than we adults have done for them. It’s our job to create a climate where they can grow and learn free from fear, and as you will hear, we are far from succeeding at our task. We need to do better.
It’s impossible to witness the conversation without being moved. I hope you’ll watch, and think about what it means for our communities. We have posted an 4 minute excerpt along with the full video of the hour-long conversation. Please watch.
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education