President Barack Obama, State of the Union (January 25, 2014)
“If you work hard and play by the rules, you should have the opportunity to succeed, and your ability to get ahead should be determined by your hard work, ambition, and goals – not by the circumstances of your birth.”
The Obama Administration has been guided by the core American principle that opportunity should be open to all. And despite some of the most difficult economic circumstances in decades, this Administration has made significant progress and achievements in education, employment, health, and criminal justice for all Americans. But boys and young men of color continue to face persistent and pernicious gaps in opportunities and life outcomes. Many of these disparities in outcomes are not explained by contextual factors, such as the level of education or family income.
At this early stage of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, our understanding of current trends, review of the research and engagement with thousands of diverse stakeholders—including boys and young men of color themselves—give us great optimism about the potential that exists to improve meaningfully the expected educational and life outcomes for these boys and young men, and increase their economic, social, and civic contributions to the country.
Individual achievement is a result of a complex combination of many interdependent personal choices, cultural and social factors and institutional influences. This complexity has made the work of removing barriers and closing gaps an enduring enterprise, whether in education, economics, health or criminal justice. There is, however, evidence that removing systemic barriers and implementing a comprehensive set of promising and proven strategies, practices and programs can empower youth, including boys and young men of color, even those in the most difficult circumstances, to reach high levels of individual performance.
As the President has said, My Brother’s Keeper is not some big, new government program. The most meaningful interactions — the most powerful means of change — are through the relationships with parents, teachers, faith leaders, coaches and mentors that together shape our children and allow them to thrive. The biggest areas for opportunity will come from within individual communities; but there are many ways we can together empower and better support our youth, including boys and young men of color, their families and their communities.
The strategies and recommendations discussed in this report are designed in accordance with the fundamental principle that Federal and federally assisted programs and services may not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, or national origin.
Nothing in this document should be read to suggest otherwise. Consistent with that principle, My Brother’s Keeper aims to break down barriers to success and to promote increased opportunity for all, regardless of sex, race, color, or national origin. Even in a tight budget environment, by working together to enable broad adoption of what works and to develop innovative approaches, we can continue to make progress for all our youth, including boys and young men of color, especially in communities of greatest need.
(My Brother’s Keeper Task Force Report to the President, 2014)