President proves he is his ‘brother’s keeper’

Stacy M. Brown | 3/14/2014, 6 a.m.
After five years in the Oval Office and facing increasing skepticism from many of the 93 percent of black voters ...
President Barack Obama delivered remarks at an event to highlight "My Brother's Keeper," an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color, in the East Room of the White House, on Thursday, February 27, 2014. Official White House photo/Pete Souza

Trayvon Martin’s parents were present at the event along with basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson; former secretary of state General Colin Powell; Reverend Al Sharpton; National Urban League president Marc Morial; Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly; and others. President Obama called for a range of people from business owners to religious leaders to actors and athletes to step in and help young blacks to stay the course.

He also challenged black youth not to make excuses or blame “the man” when they don’t make the best of decisions.

“You will have to reject the cynicism that says the circumstances of your birth or society’s lingering injustices necessarily define you and your future,” Obama said.

“It will take courage, but you will have to tune out the naysayers who say if the deck is stacked against you, you might as well just give up or settle into the stereotype. Nothing will be given to you.”

The president’s speech evoked tears from CNN anchor Don Lemon, also in attendance for the historic announcement. “Obviously, I am a journalist, we want to remain objective, but I’m also a human being and I relate to that more than most,” Lemon said.

“What the president was saying is regardless of the circumstances around you, and, yes, we get racism, yes, we get the playing field is not even, but you cannot let that stop you. You don’t let other people define who you are because they may think of you as other or you’re a black person or they may be discriminating against you.”

A number of foundations have pledged at least $200 million over the next five years to seek solutions to early-childhood development, school readiness, educational opportunities, discipline, parenting, the criminal justice system and other problems that primarily affect young blacks.

“This is not a one-year proposition or a two-year proposition,” Obama said. “It’s going to take time. We’re dealing with complicated issues that run deep in our history, run deep in our society and are entrenched in our minds.”