Arne Duncan has used his last speech as US education secretary to draw attention to the fact that gun violence claims the lives of thousands of American children each year.
Mr Duncan (pictured) said that 16,000 children and teenagers were killed during his first six years in office.
“We have to get guns out of the wrong people’s hands,” he said. “We have to make sure our babies are safe.”
Mr Duncan, who last week stood down from the post he has held for seven years, said that the failure of the US government to pass gun-control legislation has been the “greatest frustration” of his time in the post.
He went on to draw links between street violence and high-school drop-out rates among some of the US’s poorest communities. He said that both are the products of hopelessness: children feel they have a greater chance of dying young than of going to university or finding a job.
And he added that children’s lives could be saved through widened access to pre-school education, as well as through greater incentives for good teachers to work in schools in poorer areas.
“Our children need hope, and hope not in the unseen, not in the distance, but in what they can see every day on their block, and in their schools, and in their communities,” Mr Duncan said.
Mr Duncan is one of the US’s longest-serving education secretaries. During his time in Barack Obama’s cabinet, he used federal dollars to encourage states to adopt new Common Core academic standards. He also tied teacher evaluations to test scores achieved by their pupils.
“Education is always going to be my life’s passion,” Mr Duncan told The Washington Post. “I’m going to keep finding ways to do education, but it’s hard to educate a kid that’s dead. It’s hard to educate a kid that’s living in constant fear.”