The recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, have been on the minds of many of us at the Department of Education. Secretary Duncan addressed the topic in a staff-wide email just before the Thanksgiving holiday. Because of the importance of the topic, we are posting his email below.
Like many of you, I have been troubled by the death of Michael Brown, the tragic loss to his family and his community, and what has been happening in Ferguson, Missouri, over recent months and over the past 36 hours.
We come to work at this agency each day because we believe in the world that is possible when equity and justice and peace and opportunity are a reality in the lives of our communities and our young people. Thus, it is especially difficult to watch the scenes of violence and unrest in Ferguson. Evident in those scenes is a broken trust that exists within communities well beyond Missouri, between people – particularly those of color – and the official institutions that are there to serve them.
I must stress that nonviolence is the most powerful strategy and the only path to a real solution. What we are seeing in Ferguson speaks to some important and deep issues that won’t be resolved just by bringing quiet to the streets there.
For our young people to succeed, they have to be connected, to know that they have a stake, to have opportunities open to them, to trust in our legal system, and trust that the adults and society around them have their best interests at heart. I worry when young people may have lost their trust in our system of laws and democracy, and become disconnected – from adults, from society, from school, and from the police. I believe that this alienation, lack of trust, and disconnect is how we start to lose some of our young people, especially in communities of color. I believe it is our job as adults to do everything we can to rebuild that trust – in Ferguson and throughout the country.
Solving those problems and setting communities on a path to trust isn’t a quick fix. Relationships are built – or damaged – over time. We should take away from Ferguson that we need a conversation to rebuild those relationships, throughout the country, and that need is urgent. It needs to involve everyone – our young people, our parents, our schools, our faith communities, our government officials, and the police. It needs to happen now.
Moving that conversation forward is part of the work that so many of us do – and in fact, for many of us, it’s the reason for it. We are together in that effort, and it has never been more important. Thanks for what you do every day to advance opportunity, cohesion, understanding, trust, and justice.
Finally, as you gather with your families and in your communities for Thanksgiving, let’s all be thankful for our many blessings and hopeful that we can get to a place where all of America’s children feel they have an equal opportunity to succeed in life thanks to a great education, a rewarding job, and the caring of adults around them.