This afternoon, in the East Room of the White House, President Obama delivered remarks at the launch event for My Brother’s Keeper – his new initiative aimed at helping young men and boys of color facing tough odds reach their full potential. The initiative will bring together private philanthropies, businesses, governors, mayors, faith leaders, and nonprofit organizations that are committed to helping them succeed.
As the President said in today’s remarks, ensuring that young men of color can reach their full potential is the only way “America can reach its full potential.”
President Obama announced that philanthropies and corporate leaders have pledged to invest at least $200 million over the next five years — on top of $150 million that they have already invested — to figure out which programs are the most successful in helping young men of color and replicate them in communities across the country. He also signed a presidential memorandum directing the federal government to determine the best methods to improve the odds for young men of color.
The President made clear, however, that government can’t fix the problem by itself. Helping our young men of color has to be a multifaceted, sustained effort in all areas of our society:
In this effort, government cannot play the only — or even the primary — role. We can help give every child access to quality preschool and help them start learning from an early age, but we can’t replace the power of a parent who’s reading to that child. We can reform our criminal justice system to ensure that it’s not infected with bias, but nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life.
In other words, broadening the horizons for our young men and giving them the tools they need to succeed will require a sustained effort from all of us. Parents will have to parent — and turn off the television, and help with homework. Teachers will need to do their part to make sure our kids don’t fall behind and that we’re setting high expectations for those children and not giving up on them. Business leaders will need to create more mentorships and apprenticeships to show more young people what careers are out there. Tech leaders will need to open young eyes to fields like computer science and engineering. Faith leaders will need to help our young men develop the values and ethical framework that is the foundation for a good and productive life.
So we all have a job to do. And we can do it together — black and white, urban and rural, Democrat and Republican.