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Yesterday at the White House I met a 19-year-old young man named James Adams who has a commute unfamiliar to most high school students.
He says when he was in school he woke up every morning put on his vest and coat and went to school.
It wasn’t a fancy, fashionable vest. It was a bullet proof one.
And depending on the day, he’d have to change his route home if he knew gang-bangers were outside.
it is the rough and tumble existence for many young black men like James all over the country where the street life of crime, violence and dropping out of school has become their convenient, and many times, only alternative.
It is one reason that the sentencing project, which tracks crime statistics, found that one in three black men born today can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.
And it is the polar opposite of the black man that is the leader of the free world and resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
So, last year the president traveled back to his hometown, to the south side of Chicago, and met with the young men of bam, which stand for becoming a man.
Bam is a wildly successful mentoring program.
The president says he saw himself in the young men when he met with them:
“What I explained to them was I had issues too when I was their age,” he said. “I just had an environment that was a little more forgiving, so when I screwed up, the consequences weren’t as high as when kids on the South Side screw up.”
The president’s Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett says that in that brief interaction the president transformed many of the teens’ lives and touched their hearts as they did his.
Now the president wants to do that all over the country.
so today, with the young men from bam by his side, president Obama will announce the ‘my brother’s keeper’ initiative where leading foundations and businesses will donate at least 200-million dollars over five years to programs like bam nationwide.
It appears to be working for the few hundreds who have been lucky enough to walk through BAMS doors in Chicago.
Let’s hope it works now for millions around the country.
A troubled generation of lives depend on it.