Dennis Janson: Where is press coverage to Obama's overdue 'My Brother's Keeper' initiative?

CINCINNATI -- Unfortunately the meltdown in Ukraine is sucking much of the air out of the nation’s newsrooms, rendering an important domestic event an afterthought on Sunday talk shows.

Though overdue in my opinion, and fraught with politics, President Barack Obama’s remarks to a group of young men at the White House Thursday could have more meaningful durability than many he’s uttered in office.

In launching his “My Brother’s Keeper ” outreach, he called for young minority men on the margins to take more control of their futures.

Additionally, according to CNN.com, “Mr. Obama signed a presidential memorandum creating a government-wide task force to evaluate the effectiveness of various approaches, so that federal and local governments, community groups and businesses will have best practices to follow in the future. An online 'What Works' portal will provide public access to data about programs that improve outcomes for young minority men.”

What Works?
 
You don’t need a government-wide task force to come up with a short list: stay in school, stay away from drugs, don’t have children out of wedlock and don’t quit a job until you have another one.

The first component alone greatly enhances one’s chances of succeeding in life. According to the National Dropout Prevention Center, nearly 75% of America’s state prisoners, 59% of Federal prisoners and 69% of county jail inmates did not complete high school.

There is some chatter from administration insiders, that the President, unencumbered from the rigors of running for re-election is finally free to engage his passion and speak the truth to young black men. The suggestion that such a basic outreach was not addressed because of political concerns is insulting. If true, appalling.

Also perplexing is lack of coverage by Fox News, The Drudge Report and other news organizations historically at odds with the President. This would seemingly nestle right in their wheelhouse. Especially when the President offered that, “…if America stands for anything, it stands for the opportunity for everybody – the notion of no matter who you are or where you came from, or the circumstances under which you were born – if you work hard, if you take responsibility, then you can make it in this country.”

What does register with skeptics is his senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett saying that Thursday marks the start of an effort that the President and First Lady Michelle Obama plan to undertake "for the rest of their lives."
Again raising the question of where the effort has been for five-and-a-half years. That said, many see this as a critical reset.

"The president of the United States has never taken a stand suggesting that our nation mobilize its resources to improve opportunity for this population," said Gail C. Christopher, vice president of program strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which focuses its resources on vulnerable children who face poverty and discrimination.

Even some of the President’s ardent supporters have taken note of his failure to use the presidential bully pulpit to meet head on, the challenges facing young men mired in circumstances similar to those he weathered. That is changing though according to NAACP Interim President Lorraine Miller.
 
"I think he's looking at a more strategic way how he can make an impact in the African-American community (not only) with employment but with health care and all the kind of issues we face every day."

As I see it, we don’t need another program to take on these nettlesome issues.. We need another voice. An experienced voice familiar with the potential pitfalls and possible upside.
 
And Thursday that voice weighed in. Better late than never.
 
Welcome to the fray Mr. President.

 

And, that's my 2 cents.

Denny Janson's "My 2 cents" column is published every Monday and Wednesday on WCPO.com. His video commentary airs every Friday at 6 p.m. 

 

 

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