President Obama launched a new initiative called “My Brother’s Keeper” at the White House on February 27 that will help boys and young men of color stay in school and find good jobs by focusing on key moments in their lives.
“The plain fact is there are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our society—groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations,” Obama said. “And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the twenty-first century in this country are boys and young men of color.”
The initiative has two main components. The first is a new My Brother’s Keeper Task Force that Obama created by Executive Memorandum. The task force, an interagency effort chaired by Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, will focus on what is working in the public and private sectors to help these young people. It will also determine what federal policies and programs can better support those efforts and how to better involve state and local officials, the private sector, and the philanthropic community in these efforts.
The second component is a new commitment from foundations to award at least $200 million over the next five years to fund solutions in key areas in a young person’s life, including early child development and school readiness, parenting and parent engagement, third-grade literacy, educational opportunity and school discipline reform, interactions with the criminal justice system, ladders to jobs and economic opportunity, and healthy families and communities.
The initiative will also leverage participation from the business community and elected officials, including former professional basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, both of whom joined Obama for the announcement.
“Across this country, in government, in business, in our military, in communities in every state, we see extraordinary examples of African American and Latino men who are standing tall and leading, and building businesses, and making our country stronger,” Obama said. “But fifty years after Dr. King talked about his dream for America’s children, the stubborn fact is that the life chances of the average black or brown child in this country lags behind by almost every measure, and is worse for boys and young men.”
Obama acknowledged that the initiative, which deals with “complicated issues that run deep in our history,” will take time, but he said its payoff could be enormous.
“We need to give every child, no matter what they look like, where they live, the chance to reach their full potential. Because if we do—if we help these wonderful young men become better husbands and fathers, and well-educated, hardworking, good citizens—then not only will they contribute to the growth and prosperity of this country, but they will pass those lessons on to their children, on to their grandchildren, will start a different cycle. And this country will be richer and stronger for it for generations to come.”
More information on the My Brother’s Keeper initiative is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/my-brothers-keeper.