WASHINGTON — President Obama will announce details for what he is dubbing his "My Brother's Keeper" initiative on Thursday, a new government partnership with businesses and philanthropic organizations that he hopes will help high-risk minority men gain the skills they need to succeed as adults and stay out of jail.
Obama, who will unveil the initiative at an afternoon event at the White House, wants to adopt best practices from communities throughout the country where businesses and foundations are already working together to mentor young minority men.
In support of the program, the Obama administration recruited several philanthropic groups — including the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Ford Foundation and The John and James L. Knight Foundation — to pledge at least $200 million over the next five years to develop programs on early childhood development, parenting, school discipline reform and other critical areas.
The foundations have also agreed to work with Obama's Cabinet secretary, Broderick Johnson, over the next 90 days to assess the effectiveness of existing public and private efforts and determine how the federal government can change its policies to support those efforts, said White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.
"The president is going to sign a presidential memorandum to launch an internal effort within the federal government focused on using results and evidence to evaluate what works and stop what does not work, all with existing resources," Jarrett said
In addition, Obama plans to meet on Thursday with several business leaders — including Joe Echevarria from Deloitte, Magic Johnson from Magic Johnson Enterprises, Glenn Hutchins of Silver Lake Partners, Adam Silver of the National Basketball Association and Thomas Tull of Legendary Entertainment — to discuss ways their companies can join the initiative.
The White House is also touting support the initiative has already received from several prominent executives, such as Rosalind Brewer of Sam's Club, Ken Chenault of American Express, and Don Thompson of McDonald's.
The announcement comes in the same week as the two-year anniversary of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager whose 2012 slaying in Florida spurred Obama to speak in personal terms about race, Jarrett noted.
"In the aftermath, the president spoke about how we need to give boys and young men of color the sense their country cares about them and is committed to investing in their future," Jarrett said.
Obama has also invited young men from a Chicago-based group called Becoming a Man, whose members Obama has previously met, to participate in the ceremony.
Jarrett held up the group as one whose success the White House believes the federal government can learn from as Obama develops the My Brother's Keeper initiative.
"These young men are excellent examples that success is possible, even for young men that have hit hard times," Jarrett said.
Obama has faced periodic criticism during his presidency from prominent African Americans — including scholar Cornel West and radio host Tavis Smiley — who have charged that he has spent little political capital or energy focusing on the plight of poor minority communities.
Jarrett suggested that the president, who began his career as a community organizer in a violence-plagued African-American neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, plans to remain focused on issues plaguing at-risk minority men even after he leaves the White House.
"As the president has made clear, the challenges facing young men and boys of color is something of great personal importance to him," Jarrett said. "For this reason, this initiative is one that the president has been closely involved in every step along the way, and one that he and the first lady will remain committed to after his presidency."