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Kudos to the President and his My Brother’s Keeper Initiative

opinion-editorial

Roger Caldwell | 3/10/2014, 10:54 a.m.
Any historian will tell his students that a president’s second term will define his legacy to the country and the ...
President Barack Obama announced "My Brother's Keeper" initiative.

Any historian will tell his students that a president’s second term will define his legacy to the country and the world. President Obama will go down in history as one of America’s greatest presidents that held the office. “From the moment President Obama walked into the East Room for the My Brother’s Keeper event, you could tell this initiative was personal for him,” says Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post.

Many will argue that for five years the president has been asleep at the switch, when it comes to the deplorable condition of Black and Hispanic young men. Some would say that the president has not done anything, but they are wrong.

For the last five years, President Obama has allocated millions of dollars to young fatherhood programs around the country and continues to make a difference in thousands of young men lives. The leaders, teachers, and organizations on the front line have been engaged in this initiative for ten or fifteen years and our president has been their biggest supporter, since he took office.

The media and Bill O’Reilly will take the credit for convincing the president to initiate a program for Black and Hispanic young men. This will be news-breaking information for two weeks and eventually it will evaporate, and there will be another hot item to take its place.

But, this program for the president is more than just a hot news item, because when he was growing up, he had no dad. When he was growing up, he was angry, got high, made excuses, and sometimes sold himself short. This is why privileged white men cannot understand Black men, because there is no emotional connection to the African American experience in America.

The difference with President Obama is that he can see himself as one of these young Black men, and he has friends that were unable to rise above the conditions in the community. “We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is. These statistics should break our hearts. And they should compel us to act,” says the president at the My Brother’s Keeper event.

Here are some of the statistics rattled off by the president:

  • During the first three years of life, a child born into a low- income family hears 30 million fewer words than a child born into a well-off family.
  • If a child can’t read well by the time he’s in 3rd grade, he’s four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19.
  • We know that Latino kids are almost twice as likely as white kids to be suspended from school. Black kids are nearly four times as likely.
  • We know that students of color are far more likely than their white classmates to find themselves in trouble with the law. If a student gets arrested, he’s almost twice as likely to drop out of school.

When the president finished his remarks, there was not a dry eye in the East Room. It is a state of emergency with young Black and Hispanic men in the country, and everyone is affected. There are no simple steps to the solutions for these problems, but this is an American problem.

Exposing these problems by the president is a step in the right direction, and it is essential that the entire country becomes engaged. Everyone needs a fair opportunity to succeed and reach their highest potential. The president continues to use his office as a platform for change.