On Thursday, President Barack Obama launched a new initiative to provide greater opportunities for young men of color — a direct response to the challenges minorities face from a president criticized for often avoiding the issue.
Dubbed “My Brother’s Keeper,” the new initiative will partner the White House with businesses, nonprofits and foundations to address the disparities in education, employment, social issues and criminal justice.
“No excuses. Government, and private sector, and philanthropy, and all the faith communities, we all have a responsibility to help provide you the tools you need. We’ve got to help you knock down some of the barriers that you experience,” Obama said.
Standing in front of young men from the Becoming A Man program in Chicago, a group of young the President met at Hyde Park Academy when he visited there last year after the death of Hadiya Pendleton. Obama relayed a personal story about growing up a minority without a father, dabbling in drugs and making bad choices as a result, describing the program as one that “goes to the very heart of why I ran for President.”
“I didn’t have a dad in the house, and I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short,” the President said.
“The only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving. So when I made a mistake, the consequences were not as severe,” the President said.
“I had people who encouraged me, not just my mom and grandparents, but wonderful teachers and community leaders. And they pushed me to work hard, and study hard, and make the most of myself. And if I didn’t listen, they said it again. And if I didn’t listen, they said it a third time – and they would give me second chances and third chances.
“They never gave up on me, and so I didn’t give up on myself.”
He continued, explaining to the young men behind him and a nation of minorities stuck in the vicious cycle that every child deserves the same chances he had.
“This is an issue of national importance. It’s as important as any issue that I work on. It’s an issue that goes to the very heart of why I ran for President, because if America stands for anything, it stands for the idea of opportunity for everybody.
“The notion that no matter who you are, or where you came from, or the circumstances into which you are born, if you work hard, if you take responsibility, then you can make it in this country,” the President said.
Obama, however, is no stranger to the sobering statistics and challenges men of color face daily in America, adding that these young men shouldn’t subscribe to numbers just because they are the norm.
“By almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century, in this country, are boys and young men of color,” he said.
“The worst part is we’ve become numb to these statistics. We’re not surprised by them. We take them as the norm. We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is,” the President said.
“But these statistics should break our hearts, and they should compel us to act.”
So far, My Brother’s Keeper has brought together foundations and businesses to pledge at least $200 million over the next five years, on top of the $150 million they have already invested. As part of the campaign led by the major foundations, one of them, The California Endowment last year launched the #SonsAndBrothers initiative, pledging $50 million to the overall efforts. At yesterday’s event at the White House, the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were seen wearing the black rose pin supporting the #SonsAndBrothers campaign. GlobalGrind snapped a picture of the courageous parents with Grey’s Anatomy star and civil rights activist, Jesse Williams. To get a free pin, you can visit: www.sonsandbrother.us
Watch the video above to hear the rest of President Obama’s emotional and personal speech.
SOURCE: White House