Peace First Duets: Arne Duncan and Mary-Pat Hector discuss gun violence in Chicago

Duets is a storytelling platform that pairs leading artists, entrepreneurs, activists, and thinkers together with young people engaged in peacemaking work for powerful dialogues that explore the most important issues for our times.

[Eric] And so tonight, I’m excited to welcome Arne Duncan - former Secretary of Education, dad, husband, proud Chicagoan, former Chief of Schools here [in Chicago], now working with the Emerson Collective. And I’ll let him talk about some of the work he’s doing with young people here in the city. And Mary-Pat, who is 19 years-old, Sophomore at Spelman [College]; who was a 2013 winner of the Peace First Prize, which is like the Nobel Peace Prize for young people, for doing exceptional work around gun violence.

[Arne] While we were gone, the violence got some much worse. I always tell people, when I ran Chicago Public Schools we worked on improving academic achievement, contract negotiations with the Union, budget issues, but by far the hardest issue I dealt with was that level of violence. I had not been this close. It’s a really tough thing to say, the horrific rates of violence in Chicago - we have earned this. It is not an accident - we have earned this, through our action and through our inaction. We have to own it, we have to partner, we have to listen, we have to empower - but we have a tone of work to do as adults and I don’t want to let us off the hook.

[Mary-Pat] As young people, sometimes we feel like “why should we care if you don’t care?”

[Arne] There’s lots of huge challenges here, and I’m actually very optimistic. I think we can win this one, in part, because we have amazing young people. There’s an extraordinary pool of talent to tap into and we’re just scratching the surface; there’s so much more to do.

[Mary-Pat] We have to teach our young people that violence is never the answer and to have hope in something. Like I said, everyone’s not fortunate enough to have that parent, so not being afraid to go into the communities that you’d normally never go into to mentor a child who doesn’t have that mother or father figure -who could just use that ounce of hope that you could give them, so that they would think twice before picking up a gun and using it on another person.

[Mary-Pat] Young people need to be told that they can. And it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you’ve been through or what area of the community you come from, you can.

Right now, there are thousands and thousands of people like Mary-Pat across the globe – young people with the ideas, with the perspective, with the compassion – they just need the opportunity and support.

If you are one of those young people, join Mary-Pat by accepting the Peace First Challenge here.