PABLO – A member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet will shower and dress in a Pablo gymnasium before delivering the commencement address Saturday at Salish Kootenai College.
That’s because first, he’ll lace up some sneakers and play basketball with local kids attending a Nike basketball camp at nearby Two Eagle River School.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is scheduled as the commencement speaker at SKC, where 200 students will receive diplomas or certificates of completion.
The tribal college will be awarding bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees or certificates to 190 people, plus double degrees to 10 more. Commencement starts at noon Saturday.
“Tribal colleges and universities like (SKC) play such a vital role in Indian Country – and in our nation as a whole – because they help maintain, preserve and restore Native languages, history and culture, and provide a high-quality education for tribal families and communities,” U.S. Department of Education press secretary Dorie Nolt said in a prepared statement. “Secretary Duncan has visited Indian Country several times and wanted to visit again to celebrate the successes of Native students at this outstanding college.”
Duncan will start his day in Pablo at a basketball camp at Two Eagle River hosted by Nike’s N7 Fund, which uses proceeds from sales of the Nike Air Native N7 to support youth sports and physical activity programs in Native American communities across North America.
The secretary was a co-captain of Harvard University’s men’s basketball team in the mid-1980s, and played professionally in Australia. He was the MVP of the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Games.
An SKC spokeswoman said Duncan would be participating, and not just watching, at the camp.
Interestingly, Duncan could have been playing basketball in Moscow instead of Pablo this weekend.
He was a member of the current USA Basketball 3x3 men’s national championship team, which last month won its title and the right to move on to the FIBA 3x3 World Championships in Moscow on Thursday through Sunday.
Duncan, who is 6-foot-5 and 49, teamed with former Northwestern players Jitim Young and Craig Moore, and former Princeton big man Mack Darrow, to win the national championship. Whether it was the time commitment necessary, America’s frosty relations with Russia or something else, Duncan declined the trip to the world championships and was replaced on Team USA by former Metropolitan State player Demetrius Miller.