February 27, 2014, 06:00 am
Obama strives to be 'my brother’s keeper'
By Justin Sink
President Obama on Thursday will establish a new interagency task force charged with promoting opportunities for young men of color through an examination of government policies and programs.
The program, dubbed “My Brother’s Keeper,” will ask businesses and foundations to fund programs across the country designed to keep young minority men employed or in school and out of jail.
“For decades, opportunity has lagged behind for boys and young men of color. But across the country, communities are adopting approaches to help put these boys and young men on the path to success,” a White House official said in a statement. “The president wants to build on that work.”
The president will announce that foundations supporting the initiative have pledged at least $200 million over the next five years to “find and rapidly spread solutions that have the highest potential for impact,” the White House said.
Efforts receiving commitments will include those targeting early child development and school readiness, parenting and parent engagement, third grade literacy, and school discipline reform.
Programs helping reduce minority interactions with the criminal justice system and improve health and economic opportunities will also be among those evaluated by the task force, which has three months to design an plan for coordinating the $200 million in commitments.
According to the White House, the panel will also work across the federal government to assess the impact of federal policies on boys of color, create an online portal of programs that have a proven record of success, and recommend ways the White House can continue to partner with the private sector on outreach efforts.
Obama will announce that the effort will be chaired by Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
Colin Powell, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NBA hall-of-famer Magic Johnson, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver are also expected to be in attendance, as will business leaders, faith leaders, state and local officials, and participants of a youth guidance program called “Becoming a Man” that targets boys on Chicago’s South Side.
The president has met repeatedly with the group, and heralded it as an example of how small interventions can help keep young minorities out of trouble.
Also in attendance will be Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, according to the network’s media reporter, Howard Kurtz.
During an interview with O’Reilly ahead of the Super Bowl earlier this month, Obama defended his administration’s efforts to address problems within minority communities.
“We address it explicitly all the time. … Talking about the importance of men taking responsibility for their children. Talking about the importance of young people delaying gratification. Talking about the importance of when it comes to child rearing, paying child support, spending time with your kids, reading with them. So, whether it’s getting publicity or not is a whole different question,” Obama said.
Obama first hinted at the initiative in his State of the Union address late last month.
“I'm reaching out to some of America's leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential,” Obama said in the speech.
The White House says the effort is necessary because “boys and young men of color, regardless of socio-economic background, are disproportionately at risk throughout the journey from their youngest years to college and career.” A White House official said that black and Hispanic boys are far more likely to read below proficiency levels by fourth grade, and young men of color are more than six times as likely to be victims of murder than their white peers.
The program also corresponds with the president’s “Year of Action” messaging campaign, which has focused on Obama’s efforts to use his regulatory authorities and ability to corral philanthropic support to achieve policy proposals without needing legislation. Earlier this year, Obama rallied private corporations, foundations and universities to improve school access for poor children and end discrimination against the long-term unemployed in hiring practices.