Keynote Speakers:


John King

John B. King Jr. is a lifelong educator and a former secretary of education under President Obama. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife (a former kindergarten and first-grade teacher) and his two daughters, who attend Montgomery County Public Schools. King’s family has deep roots in Maryland. His great-grandfather, Charles King, was enslaved just 25 miles from his home in Montgomery County – and the cabin where his ancestors lived still stands. His grandmother, Estelle Livingston Stansberry King, attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (then called Princess Anne Academy), where she was among the first Black graduates in 1894.

A remarkable testament to his ancestors’ journey to present day, John served as President Barack Obama’s U.S. Secretary of Education. In tapping him to lead the U.S. Department of Education, President Obama called John “an exceptionally talented educator,” citing his commitment to “preparing every child for success” and his lifelong commitment and passion for education. As a member of President Obama’s cabinet, he led the administration’s efforts to close opportunity gaps for students from Pre-K through college.

Deeply dedicated to public education, John serves as President of a national education civil rights organization that works to support students of color and those from low-income backgrounds, and is currently Professor of Practice at the University of Maryland College Park’s College of Education.

While John’s remarkable career as an educator and a policy maker has focused on closing opportunity gaps in education, he has also spent his career working toward a more just future for those who have too often been marginalized, undeserved and forgotten. He continues to lead on issues of dismantling mass incarceration and providing second chances, combating hunger and homelessness, advancing environmental and economic justice, preventing gun violence, and other social justice causes. John serves on several boards including Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative, Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, The Century Foundation, Teach Plus, The Robin Hood Foundation, the National Center for Learning Disabilities Professional Advisory Board, and the National Advisory Council for the Prenatal-toThree Policy Impact Center at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a co-chair of the Aspen Institute’s K12 Climate Action Commission.

Last fall John founded Strong Future Maryland, a progressive advocacy organization that was instrumental in supporting the passage of over 20 pieces of progressive legislation. now John is a Democratic candidate for Governor in Maryland.

John holds a Bachelor of Arts in government from Harvard University (where he was elected to the Board in 2019), a J.D. from Yale Law School, as well as a Master of Arts in the teaching of social studies and a doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia University.

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