Obama’s legacy, My Brother’s Keeper will be an important pillar

Tables in two conference rooms, separated by a spit-shined corridor in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, held an array of posters and literature promoting educational and social programs with a proven record.

But nowhere was there a table promoting President Obama’s legacy.

Yet the sense of legacy was all around.

Though it doesn’t get as much attention as the Affordable Care Act or hits and misses on the foreign affairs front, the president’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative will be an important pillar in the way he is remembered.

That’s the plan.

Obama started My Brother’s Keeper “because what we want to do is help more young people, especially kids of color, get mentorships and the resources and the guidance they need to succeed,” he told students at Washington’s Benjamin Banneker Academic High School on Monday. “And I’m going to stay involved with that even after I’m done being president.”

My Brother’s Keeper is one of the programs that has at least the potential to appeal to Democrats and Republicans. It promotes and facilitates programs already doing good work, provides technical assistance, while raising their profile and their fundraising capabilities.

And it cost the government very little.

My Brother’s Keeper doesn’t fund programs directly, meaning it doesn’t draw daggers from the budget hawks on Capitol Hill.

The program is designed to get the public and private sector focused on work  “to enhance the life outcomes of boys and young men of color,” said Broderick Johnson, chairman of  the My Brother’s Keeper inter-agency Task Force.

Dozens of programs were represented during Monday’s event to celebrate their success, network and learn from each other.

Devon Watson was there, representing the 2017 class at Urban Prep, a South Side Chicago school affiliated with My Brother’s Keeper.

One of the main things Watson gets out of Urban Prep is “the sense of brotherhood and support,” and, he added, the feeling of safety.

Cameron Barnes is a 2010 Urban Prep graduate. In addition to academics, it showed him “how to grow up and be a man,” he said. “I didn’t have a father figure growing up.”

Watson and Barnes traveled to the White House to show off Urban Prep and help promote My Brother’s Keeper. Obama’s Presidential Memorandum creating the inter-agency effort in 2014 said it is designed “to improve measurably the expected educational and life outcomes for and address the persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color.”

“Measurably” is a key word here. Monday’s program, including speeches and panel discussions in the morning, highlighted the vital role data and metrics play in evaluating the programs.

My Brother’s Keeper is different from many do-good programs, because Obama insisted on the use of evidenced-based evaluation, said Johnson, who also has the titles of assistant to the president and Cabinet secretary.

The programs affiliated with My Brother’s Keeper include:

  • A partnership between the Education Department and Johns Hopkins University to pair 250,000 sixth- and ninth-graders with trained mentors.
  • The Labor Department’s $20 million grant competition for 10 communities providing young people summer and year-round employment.
  • “Second Chance Pell,” an Education and the Justice department effort giving the incarcerated an opportunity to finance education and training.

Obama told the Banneker students he will continue to be involved in programs like these “because we all have a part to play in making sure every single child has every single opportunity to achieve his or her dreams.”