President Barak Obama has a message for minority men like him: If he could do it, so can you. The president took center stage at the White House to reveal a new initiative called “My Brother’s Keeper.”
"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, as quoted by CNN.
He even compared himself to the young men of today, with one exception: "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.
"But you've got responsibilities too. And I know you can meet the challenge, many of you already are, if you make the effort."
The main point of the program is to help young men and boys of color succeed. President Obama explained it "goes to the very heart of why I ran for president," and he went on to speak about his own father, drugs and race.
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According to White House officials, the president was more emotional about the initiative than they had expected. "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," Obama said.
He reinforced how important it was to have a strong support system: "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."
He continued, "They never gave up on me, and so I didn't give up on myself."
Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in the program to help young minority men succeed. The president talked about statistics and how they are not in favor of these young people of color.
"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," Obama said.
"But these statistics should break our hearts, and they should compel us to act."
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