Every single one of you has something you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity an education can provide.As someone trained in Asset-Based Community Development, those words struck a cord in me. To know that the President of the United States thinks akin to me invigorates my credence in this country. His words of inspiration give our youth dignity. "I expect great things from each of you," he said. "I know you can do it."
Some people question the "how" of the speech. Is it right for the Executive Branch to issue an address through the Department of Education? That is certainly up for debate. But you cannot question the "what." There is nothing wrong with encouragement to stay in school and work hard, and the more any President is visible and vocal to young people, the better.
Postulating on barriers to success in school, President Obama said, "maybe you don't have adults in your life who give you the support that you need." Well, tutor/mentor programs like Cabrini Connections offer that support. A mentor in our program is like a surrogate parent, or a fun uncle. The role is that of motivator, coach, tutor, and advocate.
And, while, to youth, these barriers are "no excuse for not trying," we as adults have to understand our responsibilities, too. What would President Obama have said to us today? We need to push and pull as seen in the daigram above. We cannot expect youth to contend with barriers on their own. You can volunteer, you can donate, and you can help connect our students with advantages like the ones that made Barack Obama so successful, and maybe one day one of them will be giving a Presidential Address.
P.S. Cabrini Connections was on CBS Channel 2 in Chicago last night! You can watch the video here.