Duncan invited staff to Sharpton rally

Education Secretary Arne Duncan invited 4,000 department employees to attend the Rev. Al Sharpton’s “Reclaim the Dream” rally, organized to counter Glenn Beck’s and Sarah Palin’s “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial, reports the Washington Examiner.

Although the e-mail does not violate the Hatch Act, which forbids federal employees from participating in political campaigns, Education Department workers should feel uneasy, said David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute.

“It sends a signal that activity on behalf of one side of a political debate is expected within a department. It’s highly inappropriate … even in the absence of a direct threat,” Boaz said. “If we think of a Bush cabinet official sending an e-mail to civil servants asking them to attend a Glenn Beck rally, there would be a lot of outrage over that.”

Brookings Institution director Russ Whitehurst, a Department of Education program director from 2001 to 2008, said, “Only political appointees would have been made aware of such an event and encouraged to attend.”

Sharpton’s event, held on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, featured praise of President Obama and jabs at the Tea Party, the Examiner reports.

“[Conservatives] think we showed up [to vote for Barack Obama] in 2008 and that we won’t show up again. But we know how to sucker-punch, and we’re coming out again in 2010,” Sharpton said.

In his remarks, Duncan called education “the civil rights issue of our generation.”

Education Department spokeswoman Sandra Abrevaya defended Duncan’s decision to speak at the rally and ask department employees to attend. “This was a back-to-school event,” she said.


President Obama will give his second annual Back to School speech on Tuesday, Sept. 14. It will be available for broadcast in schools and online. Last year’s speech raised a lot of fuss, culminating in a big fizzle as Obama told students to work hard in school.

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  1. Charles R. Williams says:

    Sharpton is not comparable to Beck. He is more like David Duke. But for the Democrats there is a certain politically correct bigotry they are happy to indulge.

  2. Given Sharpton’s history, it could be argued that the Secretary’s “invitation” (and “invitation” from one’s boss should often be read as “pressure”) for people to attend this event creates a hostile climate for Jewish employees of the department and that they would be justified in filing discrimination complaints.

  3. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    The closest that Obama’s Chicago crony Arne Duncan has ever come to a classroom is the one adjacent to the basketball court on which he played (and went on to play pro ball in Australia) or the classroom in which his mom ran an afterschool tutoring program. I will bet my entire salary that he got into Harvard for basketball, not academic, talent. I wish that just one President appointed an education secretary who actually taught in a classroom for any period of time. Better yet, jettison the federal Dept. of Education in favor of state and local departments. Best of all….jettison the Obama Adminstration, please!!!

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    The Dept of Ed people would be presumed to get there on their own. No need to hire buses to haul in enough folks to make a crowd the MSM could pretend was large.