A Better Chicago's Education Summit will convene business and civic leaders to explore how philanthropy can accelerate change and deliver a world-class education to every Chicagoan.
Opening Keynote Speaker
Acclaimed author Wes Moore is a veteran, Rhodes Scholar, founder of BridgeEDU and CEO of The Robin Hood Foundation. His most recent book, The Work, is a collection of, “…incredibly valuable lessons about what it means to create lives that matter…[it is] a way of exploring the meaning of success in a volatile, difficult, and seemingly anchorless world.” The book, which debuted at No. 15 on the New York Times Best Seller List, was received as a model for how we can weave valuable lessons together from supremely different people in order to forge individual paths to triumph. In reading this book, we can all begin to find our work at the “intersection between personal abilities and our power to use them to fix our broken world.”
Moore’s first book, The Other Wes Moore, is a story of mentorship and support networks who refused to let him fall into crime and drugs. It tells the tale of two kids with the same name living in the same decaying city. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar and White House Fellow after serving in the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army. The other is currently serving a life sentence for the killing of a police officer during an armed robbery. Burning with curiosity as to why he and the other Wes were so radically different, Moore investigated the man with the same name. The result was an instant New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller which captured the nation’s attention on what draws the line between success and failure in our communities.
An incredibly successful and sought-after speaker, Moore entrances audiences with his infectious zest for life. He has the rare ability to enthrall, inspire and engage, and captivate. He has been featured by USA Today, Time Magazine, People Magazine, Meet the Press, The Colbert Report, MSNBC and NPR, among many other media outlets. Moore is also the host of Beyond Belief on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and the executive producer and host of PBS’s Coming Back with Wes Moore, which focuses on the re-integration of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their return home.
Moore doesn’t just profess his dedication to social justice — he creates real positive change to better lives. While still a student at Johns Hopkins University, he founded STAND!, an organization which works with Baltimore youth in the criminal justice system. More recently, Moore is the founder and CEO of BridgeEdU, an innovative college platform that addresses the college completion and job placement crisis. BridgeEdU reinvents the freshman year in a way that engages students in real-world internships and service-learning opportunities in addition to core academic classes. By getting to the root of higher education’s shortcomings and altering so, too. In November of 2015, he wrote his third book, the well-received This Way Home with Shawn Goodman. Nominated for the 9th Annual Teen Choice Book Awards, the young adult novel is a story about reclamation, taking a stand for what matters most, and the discovery that, in the end, hope, love, and courage are our most powerful weapons.
As a writer and speaker, Moore shares the illuminating lessons he learned on his journeys. In The Work, he writes about an Afghan translator who taught him to find spirit in the midst of war, the resilient students of post-Katrina-ravaged Mississippi who showed courage in the face of adversity, and his late grandfather, who taught that service can save. As a speaker, Moore customizes each presentation, whether he speaks on the transformative power of education, professional and personal leadership, corporate responsibility or how to rise above adversity’s many turbulent waters.
Filled with stories of everyday people, Moore’s very human perspective coupled with his transformative programs bring concrete benefits. Audiences leave with new outlooks, and sincere motivation to tackle today’s problems. As theologian Howard Thurman once said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who come alive.”
Closing Keynote Speaker
John B. King
A passionate advocate and inspiring educational leader, former Secretary of Education John B. King considers himself living proof of the transformative power of a great education. According to Dr. King, “New York City public school teachers saved my life and gave me hope.” After losing his mother at age eight, school became the haven of stability, structure and support that sustained him during his father’s struggle and death from Alzheimer’s disease. Parentless at age 12, he continued to immerse himself into a world of learning, theater productions and historical research projects created by caring, inspirational teachers and a safe, supportive school community. To this day, Dr. King never misses an opportunity to celebrate the life-transforming power of educators. When President Obama named him as Secretary of Education at a White House ceremony, Dr. King once again thanked those teachers that had saved his life. He also shared a core belief that has driven him throughout his career: Education is at the very heart of America’s promise of opportunity.
Dr. King is currently President and Chief Executive of the Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that advocates for high academic achievement for all students, particularly low-income students and students of color. He was named Secretary of Education in January, 2016, succeeding Arne Duncan. Described as “an exceptionally talented educator” by President Obama, the appointment recognized Dr. King’s lifelong dedication to preparing every child for success as a teacher, principal and leader of schools and school systems. As Secretary, Dr. King focused on advancing excellence and equity throughout pre-school, K-12, and higher education, supporting educators and elevating the teaching profession, and improving college access, affordability and completion. He had previously served the department as Delegated Deputy Secretary, overseeing overall operations and all pre-K-12 education policies, programs and strategic initiatives. This included leading the cross-agency work of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, focused on creating pathways to opportunity for boys and young men of color. Dr. King came to the Department of Education after heading the New York State Education Department (NYSED).
During his tenure as New York’s first African-American and Puerto Rican Education Commissioner, the state was a national leader in many facets of education, including investing in high-quality early learning, raising standards for teaching and learning, providing strong professional development and innovative career ladder models for teachers and school leaders, as well as increasing educational opportunities in high-need communities. At NYSED, Dr. King drew upon his extensive experience leading urban schools as Managing Director of Uncommon Schools, a nonprofit charter management organization and as Co-director of the high-performing Roxbury (Massachusetts) Preparatory Charter School, which he co-founded. Dr. King began his career teaching high school social studies in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Boston, Massachusetts. He holds a B.A. from Harvard University, an M.A. and Ed.D. from Teachers College of Columbia University, and a J.D. from Yale University.
Bringing a moving personal narrative and experience that ranges from classroom teacher to Secretary of Education, Dr. King is a strong voice for equity and opportunity, elevating the teaching profession, and preparing a diverse, globally competitive workforce. Whether speaking to educators or business leaders, Dr. King leaves audiences feeling invested in the promise of a strong national future built upon high quality education.