Dear Friend --
Today is a bittersweet day for me. It’s the last time I will communicate with you as your Education Secretary. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the progress our nation has made over the last eight years toward ensuring all students have access to the rich, well-rounded learning opportunities they deserve. And it is a chance to say thank you.
I am grateful to all of you—those who read these emails and care deeply about education; those who teach; those who parent; those who lead schools; those who mentor youth; those who advocate for the resources that students need to be successful; those who provide life-saving health and wraparound support services to children and families; and those who serve their communities in myriad other ways.
You are a critical part of the work to expand opportunity and equity for this country’s diverse learners. Over these eight years, we increased access to quality preschool for thousands of children and families; raised graduation rates to the highest level in history; improved students’ access to technology; invested in innovations in teaching and learning; and increased college access, affordability, and completion. We have worked to protect students’ civil rights and advocate for students who are most vulnerable, including foster youth, young people in juvenile justice facilities, homeless youth, students with disabilities, English learners, children from low-income families, and students of color.
There’s a lot to be proud of; but, as we all know, there is much more to do before we can say that we are living up to our nation’s ideals of equality, freedom, and opportunity for everyone. But we know how to get there, and it’s through education.
My life is proof of the transformative power of education—as are the lives of the countless students I’ve taught, mentored, or, in the last year, met in the 31 states I’ve visited as Education Secretary. New York City public school teachers quite literally saved my life. When I lost both parents at an early age, teachers gave me a safe haven. They challenged me with high expectations and rich learning opportunities. Teachers provided me with hope in a time of despair. They helped me thrive and become the person I am today, and inspired me to become a high school social studies teacher and middle school principal—and to try to do for other students what educators did for me.
Quality, equitable public education is essential to a strong democracy, a thriving economy, and increased opportunity for all.
Never doubt that if we develop our children’s minds, nurture their hearts, and make sure they know they are safe and welcome in their schools—no matter who they are—the future of our country is strong.
When First Lady Michelle Obama gave her final speech, she dedicated it to educators and students themselves. The First Lady told young people, “Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise.” She asked young people to lead by example, through education, and with hope. And that’s exactly what I know so many of us who serve in the education community will continue to do, too. To lead by our example, through education, and with hope.
Know that I will be rooting for and working hard right along with you. Please stay in touch—and follow me at @JohnBKing.
John B. King, Jr.
U.S. Secretary of Education