“America says we will give you opportunity, but you’ve got to earn your success,” said President Barack Obama last Wednesday as he addressed the National Urban League conference in New Orleans.
This week, the president announced an initiative that will give thousands of African-American students and their families a means to do just that.
The new educational initiative, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, will be the first to directly affect African-Americans since the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.
The initiative states its goals are “to restore the country to its role as the global leader in education, to strengthen the nation by improving educational outcomes for African-Americans of all ages and to help ensure that all African-Americans receive an education that properly prepares them for college, productive careers and satisfying lives.”
The president signed the executive order last Thursday surrounded by African-American leaders and others appointed to serve on the committee for the initiative, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and NAACP President Ben Jealous.
Sharpton said, “After witnessing President Obama signing an executive order establishing the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans in the Oval Office, I strongly feel that today’s announcement could be a game changer for millions of African-Americans students and families and a significant step toward closing the education gap in our country.”
Many expected the initiative to cause a buzz on social media sites, but there has been little talk of it among many of the people who will be affected by it the most. The AmNews conducted a survey, and 60 percent of the respondents said they they had not heard about the initiative.
LaKiesha Holyfield, a junior at the University of Rochester, feels that no one has been talking about the issue because most of America doesn’t really care about the academic future of Black students.
But Jealous was confident that the initiative would provide the opportunity for change. He said, “This initiative will help ensure ongoing progress toward that day when all students have equal access to educational excellence and no student can find examples of racism anywhere in their schools except chronicled in their history books.
“The NAACP is preparing an educational report with the theme of ‘Finding Our Way Back to First.’ We’ll release the report this fall working in concert with the president’s new initiative,” he said.
The new chairperson for the initiative, Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, said he is “honored to be serving the country,” and said this initiative “shows that the president is committed to the academic achievement of African-Americans.”
Hrabowski is the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and has worked in education for over 40 years. He said that having a chance to look at what is working around the country and applying it elsewhere is key, and that everyone has a role to play to improve the education and future of the youth.
“The very title speaks volumes about the expectations,” said Hrabowski.