His voice quaking with emotion, Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan refused Tuesday to accept an anti-gun violence award, saying "I don't feel I've earned it'' with student deaths on track to double this school year.
Duncan left the Abraham Lincoln Award from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence on a sidetable, but walked away from the lecturn at the Ritz Carlton to a standing ovation from an obviously moved audience.
But first, Duncan choked back tears as he recited this year's grim tally: eight Chicago Public School children killed since Sept. 2 -- the equivalent of two a week.
"At this rate we could lose 60 or 80 children this year,'' Duncan said. At this rate, CPS could double last year's 35 student deaths, he said. "Whole classrooms'' of kids are dying each year.
Pausing at one point to compose himself, Duncan said, "Our children are dying and no one can stop it. . . . And so, while I am deeply honored to be here . . . I don't feel I can quite accept this award, not quite yet. I don't feel I have earned it.''
Watch footage of Duncan declining the award below: