Peter Cunningham is the assistant secretary for communications and outreach at the Department of Education. In this position, he leads the Office of Communications and Outreach (OCO), composed of more than 125 employees and charged with broadcasting the president and secretary's education agenda, as well as supporting federal education policy development and promotion. Using a range of resources, from the secretary of education's speeches to the Department's Web site and social media, OCO promotes the Department's effort to expand access to and improve the quality of our nation's education system to several interested parties, including national, regional and local press, education nonprofits and interest groups, elected officials, administrators at institutions of education, teachers, students and the general public.
Prior to joining the Department, Cunningham was president of Cunningham Communications, a Chicago firm specializing in communications for local government, politics and nonprofits. Cunningham began his career as a reporter and writer for business and general interest publications, including the Southampton Press. He went on to work for several years as a speechwriter for the Illinois attorney general's office, the Finance Committee of the Chicago City Council, and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Cunningham earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy at Duke University, and a master's degree in journalism at Columbia University. In addition to maintaining a professional career as a communications strategist, he is a guitar player with an affinity for jazz, blues and rock. His love of music is shared by his family, son Liam, daughter Sima—also musicians—and his wife, Jackie Kazarian, a Chicago-based artist.