Education is essential issue for next president, Hunt says
Championing a cause which has been central to his life as a public figure, former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt wants "the next president to be a great education president." Hunt's remarks came Tuesday, April 29, during the final Joseph M. Bryan Distinguished Leadership Lecture Series event of the 2007-2008 academic year at the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro.
The first four-term governor in state history (1977-1985, 1993-2001), Hunt led efforts to improve the state’s schools, enhance the quality of teaching and provide programs for children to achieve early educational success. He believes the state and the nation can still do more to improve student achievement.
"The standards are fair, but they aren't world class," Hunt said. "We should also have national standards for education. Why should each state have their own standards?"
Hunt’s Smart Start program for pre-kindergarten children provides quality healthcare, childcare and family support for each child who needs it. The program has gained national recognition and received the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award from the Ford Foundation and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Education must be a top priority for the next president, Hunt said, because America's future depends on a well-educated workforce that can compete in today's global economy.
"If we don't do a great job with education, China will catch up with us. I want the next president to be a great education president."
A legendary figure in Democratic politics in North Carolina, Hunt had positive things to say about all three presidential candidates still in the race, though he stopped short of endorsing either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton as North Carolina's May 6 primary approaches.
"I'm very proud of both of them, and by the way, the Republicans have a good candidate in John McCain." Hunt recently saw Obama speak at a rally in Wilson County, and said he "comes across as totally honest. He's obviously got a vision of how we can do things differently." Clinton "has been around Washington, and she knows how to make things work." Hunt said she can do "the tough work," such as the time she went around Arkansas when Bill Clinton was governor, selling his unpopular plan to give the state's teachers proficiency tests. "Hillary sold it, and if you don't think that was tough, I'm here to tell you differently," Hunt said.
Hunt was part of the Democratic leadership that developed the superdelegate concept that is being debated this election season. He believes they play an important role in the electoral process without corrupting it.
"We saw that the candidates were taking over the process," Hunt said. "You need to have your top officials as part of the process. I think the superdelegates should do what they think is right for the party and for the country. They're going to give great weight to what the public says; they aren't going to ignore that."
A nationally-renowned leader in the area of education, Hunt has devoted a significant portion of his career to the improvement of teaching in the nation’s schools. He served on the Carnegie Task Force, which created the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and has served on the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education. He founded and served as chairman of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future at Stanford University, and is chairman of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
Hunt said good leadership "makes a difference for people. A good leader is one who has passion and energy and enthusiasm. And I think it's critically important that they can inspire others. Leadership is about moving ahead and improving other people's lives, but you have to have the talent and you have to work your head off."