Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks at the Interagency Committee on Disability Research

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Thank you so much. I'm really pleased to be here, and I will be pretty brief, I know I'm the warm up for Kareem. I want to thank you all for your collective efforts and thinking about doing business differently. And it has just been amazing to me as we have gotten started here, this idea of collaboration, how critically important it is for everything that we do. It just keeps getting hit home day after day after day.

We have significant resources, more resources than we have ever had. But as everyone here knows it is never enough. And what I constantly find is a lack of adults talking to each other and the people we are trying to serve. So meeting after meeting, I'm trying to bridge early childhood to elementary to high schools, high schools to college, trying to bridge services with the Department of HHS, trying to think differently about adults working with the Department of Labor. Literally on a daily basis I'm hit with the fact that historically we as adults haven't talked or communicated and moved outside of our comfort zone. So I'm so appreciative of your collective efforts to think differently about how we do research that will help us collectively give people with disabilities a chance to be successful and to fill their tremendous potential and live productive lives.

Why is it so hard? Maybe it is human nature. We all work in our silos, and get a little protective. I don't know what the root causes are. But I feel there is a new spirit now, and everywhere I go there is a sense of collaboration and a sense of this mission that is larger than all of us. And if we collectively use this window of opportunity, use the present leadership and this time of change and time of hope to behave differently—and I always say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and again and expecting different results—if we are serious about this, it means we all have to move outside of our comfort zone and let down our guards and we all have to behave in different ways than we have before. So this critically important research, this collective agenda that you all are on, no one has enough resources. No one has enough time. How we share resources, how we share tools, how we share technology, how we think differently and work together to help some of the most vulnerable in our population be successful is so hugely important. I will say the research that you come up with is going to help to set our agenda.

Now, I'm a big believer in looking at data, and a big believer of doing more of what works and stopping what doesn't work. I try to get away from anecdotes or hunches, or my gut feeling and really go where the research is telling us, so to me there is a real sense of your urgency behind this. We have so many of our young people, so many people with disabilities who are frankly being poorly served today because we haven't behaved differently. We haven't embraced each other and worked in different ways. If we can do that you guys can drive a new research agenda that gets us to best practices, lets us know what is working, and be frank and honest about what is not working. I promise you we will adjust our strategy. We will move in real time. We will do the things that are necessary to help everyone be successful, have a chance to fill their potential, and lead a great life.

I hope you have a great conference, and I hope you see this as a window of opportunity to behave and change in different ways. I thank you for your collective leadership and hard work on behalf of people who need us to think differently and need us to behave in very, very different ways. So have a great conference.

It's now my honor to introduce someone that I have gotten to know the past couple of months. I have done a little travel with him. He is a remarkable man and provides great leadership to the country and to the President, and also as a fellow Chicagoan is close to my heart, but a remarkable man who is again I think going to be a real star in this administration. Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President on Disability Policy. Kareem.