Arne Duncan

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Managing Partner at Emerson Collective, Former U.S. Secretary of Education (2009 - 2016)

Political Speakers
Global Outlook

Arne Duncan: Biography at a Glance

  • Arne Duncan served as the U.S. Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama
  • He helped secure congressional support for significant investments in education, focused billions of dollars to transform struggling schools
  • Served as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools from 2001 to 2008
  • Senior fellow at University of Chicago and board member of Communities in Schools
  • Board member of cloud-based communications company RingCentral
  • Head of Chicago CRED (Creating Real Economic Destiny), working to dramatically reduce gun violence in Chicago
  • Arne will share insights and thoughts on the education system as well as his other focus optimism, where he has dedicated a majority of his life to removing barriers to opportunities so people can live to their full potential



Arne Duncan served as U.S. Secretary of Education from January 2009 through January 2016 as part of the Obama Administration. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Duncan served as chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools. From 2001 to 2008, Duncan won praise for uniting the city’s stakeholders behind an education agenda that included opening 100 new schools; expanding after-school, summer learning, early childhood, and college access programs; dramatically boosting the caliber of teachers; and building public-private partnerships around a variety of education initiatives.

He currently leads Chicago CRED, a nonprofit trying to achieve a transformative reduction in gun violence in Chicago. Through partnerships with local business leaders, community organizers, and nonprofit groups, Duncan aims to provide outreach, therapeutic, education, and employment opportunities for the young men most likely to be engaged in gun violence. He is also the managing partner at Emerson Collective, an organization dedicated to removing barriers so people can live to their full potential.

Secretary Duncan graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1987, majoring in sociology. At Harvard, he served as co-captain of the basketball team and was named a first team Academic All-American.


How Schools Work: An Inside Account of Failure and Success From One of the Nation’s Longest-Serving Secretaries of Educationarrow-down

As former Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan provides a unique perspective on how schools work and where schools are letting children down. Arne shares how to fix America’s schools with an incredible firsthand look at successful, creative approaches, focus on the right data and strong advocacy for early childhood education. He believes that education should be the ultimate equalizer. No matter race, class or zip code, access to a great education is a national-security issue and an economic issue: the best-educated workforce keeps jobs in the U.S. and breaks cycles of poverty.

The Great Optimistarrow-down

As Managing Partner of Emerson Collective, an organization dedicated to removing barriers to opportunity so people can live to their full potential, Arne Duncan leads Chicago CRED (Creating Real Economic Destiny). CRED aims to reduce the number of shootings and gun violence in Chicago. While many see dismal criminal and gun violence statistics, Arne is up close and personal with citizens living in the most violent, hopeless areas of the city. At CRED, he works with young adults and formerly incarcerated citizens to provide mentors, job opportunities, health services that can turn around individuals one-by-one, thus transforming a city. Above all, Arne speaks with incredible hope and optimism about the hard work, character and strength of the youth he encounters daily. Learn about the work they are doing in Chicago, and how they are learning from other cities around the nation to transform the economic hope of a city.


Arne was AMAZING. We knew he would be great, but the discussion exceeded all of our expectations.

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