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Remarks at a Roundtable Discussion on Expanding Opportunity for Young People at Lehman College in New York City

May 04, 2015

Well, I just had an opportunity to have a conversation with some outstanding young men, many of them from here in New York, a few of them who have come as distant as California, Boston. We've got some folks from Jersey.

I want to thank Joe Echevarria, who has been heading up our "My Brother's Keeper" Alliance, the private-sector component of what we're doing. I'm going to have a lot more to say about that during my formal remarks. But if you have any doubt about the incredible promise and potential of America, then you need to get to know these young men, because they are examples of intelligence, hard work, empathy and compassion, street smarts. And all these young men are going to do incredible things with their lives. Many of them are already doing incredible things with their lives.

Part of what we wanted to do was to make sure we heard directly from young people who oftentimes are growing up in really tough situations: single-parent households, low-income communities, crime-infested areas. We've heard stories of some of these young men being stopped and put on the ground by police for no reason, domestic abuse inside the household, situations where the schools don't seem to be invested in their success.

And yet, despite all that, these young men are succeeding in some remarkable ways. And part of what I heard from them was that they're succeeding because somewhere along the line they've received a mentor, somebody who's just paying attention to them and giving them some sense of direction. Part of what we've heard is that they've had the opportunity in some way to participate in community service and to get involved and have been able to show themselves that they matter and they count and that they can make amazing things happen in their own communities.

And what all of them suggested is, is that if we're going to be successful in addressing some of the challenges that young men of color face around the country, that their voices have to be part of how we design programs and how we address these issues. Because they've got a lot to say, and what they say is powerful and makes a big difference.

So I just want to say to all of them how proud I am of you, how grateful I am to you. I want to thank John Legend to participate. John has been doing a lot of work on his own time, not just around "My Brother's Keeper," but dealing with issues in the criminal justice system and incarcerations and how we can steer how we interact with communities of color and low-income communities in a different direction. So we appreciate his leadership.

I'm very excited about what we can get done, but the main reason I'm excited is because listening to all these young men, I know that the future will be in good hands as long as we're giving them the support and the love that they need.

All right? Thank you, everybody. We'll see you outside.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:29 p.m. in Hearth Room 330 of the Music Building. In his remarks, he referred to former Deloitte LLP Chief Executive Officer Joseph J. Echevarria, Jr., in his capacity as Cochair and Interim Chief Executive Officer of the White House "My Brother's Keeper" initiative; and musician John Legend, in his capacity as honorary chairman of the "My Brother's Keeper" Alliance.

Barack Obama, Remarks at a Roundtable Discussion on Expanding Opportunity for Young People at Lehman College in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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