WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Obama said Monday that a new volunteer program—the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance—can help address the kinds of problems that gave rise to violence in Baltimore and other cities in recent months and years.
Too many African American and Latino men “experience being treated differently by law enforcement,” Obama said at a event promoting an initiative designed to help men of color overcome barriers to education and education opportunity.
Protests and even violence are fueled by a “sense of unfairness and powerlessness,” Obama said—and lack of opportunity.
Obama, the nation’s first African American president, turned personal in talking about the mission of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, part of a project he launched in the wake of the 2012 death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
The native of Hawaii said he could easily have gone the wrong way, and that “the only difference” between him and other young people of color is that “I grew up in an environment that was a little more forgiving.”
Said the president: “I was lucky.”
The president also suggested he would devoted much of his post-presidential work to efforts like that of My Brother’s Keeper, saying “this will remain a mission for me and for (wife) Michelle not just for the rest of my presidency but for the rest of my life.”
The issue is “hard,” Obama said at another point: “We’ve got an accumulation of not just decades, but in some cases centuries of trauma that we’re having to overcome.”
Obama spoke during a visit to Lehman College, part of day-long series of events in New York City that includes Democratic fundraisers and an appearance on David Letterman’s talk show.
My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a private sector non-profit organization that takes its name from an initiative started by Obama, is designed to raise money for local programs devoted to education, reading, mentoring, job training and other efforts that can expand economic opportunity and turn young men away from despair and violence.
In an earlier roundtable with people involved in the program, Obama said he’s heard about too many “young men being stopped and put on the ground by police for no reason.”
Obama also praised the “overwhelming majority” of police officers who work hard to keep peace in communities throughout the nation. The president paid particular tribute to New York police officer Brian Moore, 25, who died Monday after being shot over the weekend.
“They’ve got a tough job,” Obama said of the police.
The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance that Obama announced includes business and faith leaders, as well as athletes, entertainers, and other volunteers.
Joe Echevarria, the former CEO of Deloitte who is heading the alliance, said he wants it to address “opportunity gaps” and “achievement gaps” in society, in order for everyone to have a chance at the American Dream.