Press Release – Expanding Library Support for Faculty Research – Sub Grant Awards

PRESS RELEASE 
HBCU Library Alliance Awards Faculty Research Sub Grants to Recipients
Atlanta, GA – December 9, 2014 – The Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Library Alliance has selected eight institutions as recipients of sub grants as part of the Alliance’s larger effort to expand library support for faculty research. This grant funded-initiative, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, focuses on improving library services at individual HBCU campuses and developing collaborative approaches to expand HBCU community-wide library support for faculty research.

The sub grants have been awarded to libraries at HBCU institutions that have proposed or are in the midst of model projects that are developing or expanding research support services. These projects will help address an identified gap in HBCU library support for research among faculty and library deans/directors.

The eight HBCU recipients of these sub grants are:

  • Atlanta University Center Woodruff Library (Georgia)
  • Fisk University (Tennessee)
  • Jackson State University (Mississippi)
  • North Carolina A&T State University
  • Prairie View A&M State University (Texas)
  • Savannah State University (Georgia)
  • Shaw University (North Carolina)
  • Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge (Louisiana)

The sub grants were awarded based on criteria established by a nine member Faculty/Librarian Advisory Committee (FLAC), and included looking at the effectiveness of each library’s proposed plan in addressing an identified faculty need and the ability of the project to serve as a model for other HBCUs. Each sub grant recipient has four months to complete the project. Final performance and financial reports will be included in the project results documentation. In addition, each library grantee will be required to present a webinar in early 2015 to HBCU Library Alliance members to describe their project and its impact.

“We look forward to seeing the project results, and the subsequent impact they have on faculty research in these eight institutions and the greater HBCU community – whether it’s conducting ongoing literature reviews across a wide variety of sources, managing intellectual property rights and copyright, preserving access to data sets and publications through repositories, or forming partnerships to increase availability of resources,” states Cynthia L. Henderson, Executive Director of the Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library at Howard University and Chair of the HBCU Library Alliance Board of Directors.

“These sub grants extend the HBCU Library Alliance’s mission to strengthen member libraries through leadership development, archives preservation and strategic planning and assessment. This effort enables the implementation of innovative programs and increasing engagement with faculty in support for research, with the critical need to replicate effective programs on additional HBCU campuses,” says Sandra Phoenix, HBCU Library Alliance Executive Director.

For more information about the HBCU Library Alliance, please visit www.hbculibraries.org.

 

About the HBCU Library Alliance

The HBCU Library Alliance is a consortium that supports the collaboration of institutions dedicated to providing resources designed to strengthen the libraries and archives of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and their constituents. The purpose of the HBCU Alliance is to ensure excellence in HBCU Libraries and the development, coordination, and promotion of programs and activities to enhance member libraries.

For more infotmatoin please contact:

SANDRA M. PHOENIX
Executive Director
HBCU Library Alliance
sphoenix@hbculibraries.org
www.hbculibraries.org
800-999-8558, ext. 4820
404-702-5854

 

 

 

Xavier receives $19.6 million NIH award to enhance diversity in the biomedical workforce

Xavier receives $19.6 million NIH award to enhance diversity in the biomedical workforce

NEW ORLEANS (October 22, 2014) – This afternoon Xavier University of Louisiana received a $19.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of the national Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Initiative. Xavier will use the grant to expand the already thriving biomedical programs the historically Black university offers its students.

“Xavier is already number one in the nation as the primary undergraduate source of African American Ph.D.s in the life sciences,” said Dr. Norman Francis, president of Xavier University. “Yet, with this grant, we believe we can triple the number of these graduates and increase the number of African American life science Ph.D.s nationally by 10%. We are proud that NIH has named us one of the institutions that it believes can uniquely contribute to this important goal.”

The award is part of a $240 million NIH investment involving more than 10 institutions to develop new approaches to engage student researchers, including those from underrepresented backgrounds, and prepare them to thrive in the NIH-funded workforce. Xavier and fellow awardees will establish a national consortium to train, mentor and encourage students from underrepresented groups to enter into and stay in research careers.

“These awards represent a significant step towards ensuring that NIH’s future biomedical research workforce will reflect the unique perspectives found within the diverse composition of our society,” said Dr. Hannah Valantine, NIH chief officer for scientific workforce diversity.

“Participation in faculty research projects is a major reason for Xavier’s success in graduating STEM [science, technology and engineering] students, many of whom go on to get the Ph.D.,” said Dr. Gene D’Amour, the university’s principal investigator for the grant. “Working with our partner

research universities across the nation, this NIH grant will greatly increase the opportunities for our students to become even more actively engaged in cutting-edge research and to go on to get life science Ph.D.s.”

Xavier will serve as the primary institution for its grant, “Project PATHWAY: Building Integrated Pathways to Independence for Diverse Biomedical Researchers.” It has partnered with Johns Hopkins University, Emory University, the Louisiana State University and its Health Science Center, Tulane University, The University of Wisconsin, Meharry Medical College, George Washington University, Penn State University, the University of Rochester and the University of California San Francisco. Xavier will conduct and oversee the program’s implementation to broaden the interests of students early in their college careers and attract them to a life sciences Ph.D. The primary benefit to the 11 partners is access to Xavier STEM students to participate in their summer research programs and ultimately attract these students to their graduate programs. These students, known as BUILD Scholars, are motivated undergraduate science students with an interest in doing research and pursuing a Ph.D.

“The Laney Graduate School at Emory University is pleased to partner with Xavier University to implement the BUILD Initiative. Our commitment to enhancing diversity and inclusion at Emory is being implemented through robust, innovative programming that creates pipelines to increase the number of underrepresented students entering and progressing through doctoral programs in the biomedical sciences. Partnership with Xavier University will undoubtedly benefit ¬ and better ¬ our efforts. A deeper level of engagement with BUILD scholars during their undergraduate experience will create opportunities that we hope will not only attract them to our programs at Emory, but ultimately create and nurture a biomedical workforce that is more representative of the unique perspectives and diversity of our nation,” said Lisa A. Tedesco, Ph.D., Dean, James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies, Emory University.

The BUILD Initiative is expected to include five integrated components:

  •  Tuition scholarships, including stipends, for undergraduate BUILD scholars and possible loan repayment funds for those who pursue a Ph.D.
  • Training and mentorship experiences for students across a wide range of disciplines in the biomedical sciences;
  • Salary support for key faculty responsible for research training;
  • Resources for highly effective mentors to train new mentors; and
  • Support for an “innovation space” environment for BUILD awardee institutions to develop additional creative and novel approaches to increase the diversity of the student pool that enters the Ph.D. training pathway relevant to biomedical research

“This NIH grant just could not be a more exciting opportunity for Xavier faculty and students to expand our research mentoring and training efforts to now ensure even a greater number of our graduates will pipeline into STEM terminal degree programs and subsequent biomedical research careers,” said Dr. Maryam Foroozesh, Interim Associate Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs at Xavier. “Not only does this award speak to the value that Xavier holds for our nation and the world relative to the effective training of biomedical research leaders but also reflects a deep alignment with Xavier’s commitment to its mission and appreciation of its rich history.”

For information about the BUILD awardees and partners, please visit http://commonfund.nih.gov/diversity/fundedresearch

 

U.S. Education Department Announces Final Rule to Strengthen Federal Direct PLUS Loan Program

Today, the Department of Education announced publication of a final rule to strengthen the Federal Direct PLUS Loan Program, helping more students and families pay for college, and ensuring they have the tools and resources to make informed decisions about financing their educational pursuits.  The new regulations will both expand student access to postsecondary education and safeguard taxpayer dollars by reflecting economic and programmatic changes that have occurred since the program was established over 20 years ago.

“The Department’s top priority is to ensure more students can access and successfully complete a postsecondary education,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The updated borrowing standards for the PLUS loan program demonstrate our commitment to ensuring families have access to the financing they need to reach their goal, while being good stewards of taxpayer money.”

The final regulations update the definition of “adverse credit history” for PLUS loan applicants, and implement a streamlined application process for borrowers to obtain a PLUS loan, specifically for those with adverse credit histories. Economic conditions have changed considerably in the last 20 years, and this update will ensure the regulations reflect current circumstances.

The Department is also taking action to provide families with clear, customized information about their loan obligations to support their college financing decisions and ensure their loan debt stays manageable.  To better ensure families are aware of, fully understand, and comfortable with their loan obligations, the Department is developing a new loan counseling tool that would provide customized information to assist PLUS borrowers.  While PLUS borrowers with an adverse credit history determination would be required to complete counseling before their loan could be approved under the Department’s reconsideration process, the tool will be made available to all PLUS loan borrowers.

Finally, to provide more transparency in the PLUS loan program, the Department will also collect and, where appropriate, publish information about the performance of PLUS loans, including default rate information based on credit history characteristics of PLUS loan borrowers and individual institutional default rates.

Background

Prior to the final regulations issued today, the definition of “adverse credit history” under the regulations had not been updated since the Direct Loan program was established in 1994.

The development of the final rule reflects extensive outreach by the Department , including four public hearings across the country to gather feedback and recommendations from students, families, higher education leaders, and community organizations.  The negotiated rulemaking committee then held four sessions from February to May, and reached agreement on the definition of adverse credit history under the regulation.  These draft provisions were published in the Federal Register as a proposed rule (NPRM) on August 8, and included a 30-day public comment period.

The final rule, which will be published in the Federal Register Thursday, Oct. 23, establishes a threshold debt amount of $2,085, indexed to inflation, below which a potential borrower is considered to not have an adverse credit history.

Other changes include:

  • Defining terms such as debt “charged off” and “in collection” to more accurately determine whether an applicant has an adverse credit history.
  • Reducing the time period of a borrower’s credit history that is considered to determine adverse credit history from the last five years to the last two years for charge offs and collections.
  • Requiring that PLUS Loan applicants who, despite having adverse credit are able to receive a PLUS Loan based on either demonstrating extenuating circumstances or by obtaining an eligible endorser, participate in loan counseling.

Under the “master calendar” provision of the Higher Education Act (HEA), the final regulations are scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2015; however, the Department is designating the final regulations for early implementation under section 484(c)(2) of the HEA.  The Department intends to work closely with stakeholders, including our college partners, as they implement the provisions of the new regulation. As current eligibility procedures such as adverse credit history determinations reside with the Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid, we expect limited impact on current institutional procedures and processes for the packaging of student loans.

The Obama Administration has made historic investments to increases the maximum Pell grant award by $1,000, create the $2,500 American Opportunity Tax Credit, and enact effective student loan reforms that eliminated subsidies to banks and reinvested in America’s students and families to make college more affordable.  Along with these efforts, today’s actions expand college opportunity and ensure families have the finances they need to succeed in their college pursuits, to help us reach the President’s goal for America lead the world in college graduation.

President Obama’s Agenda for Creating Economic Opportunity for Millennials

President Obama’s Agenda for Creating Economic Opportunity for Millennials

*         Today, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers released a new report<http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/millennials_report.pdf> that details key characteristics of the Millennial Generation – the largest, most diverse, and most educated generation in our history – and takes an early look at the generation’s adult economic lives and the impact that this Administration’s policies have had on them.

*        Many Millennials came of age during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, but thanks to the hard work of the American people and the policies the President has pursued, we’ve laid a new economic foundation<http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/10/02/remarks-president-economy-northwestern-university> and the United States has come back faster and farther than almost any other nation on Earth.

*         Last week, the President laid out his vision for continuing to build on that foundation for a strong, durable economy with secure middle class jobs. We’re moving forward again and one generation in particular – Millennials – will shape our economy for decades to come.

*         That’s why the President will hold a town hall today and speak directly with Millennials in Los Angeles at Cross Campus, a collaborative workspace and business event venue that brings together a diverse community of freelancers, creative professionals, entrepreneurs, and Venture Capitalist-funded startup teams.

*         The President knows that Millennials – better equipped to overcome our challenges than any previous generation – are crucial to continuing our economic growth and creating good jobs that pay good wages, which is why he’s put in place policies to address the challenges their generation faces by:

o   Investing in our teachers and schools;

o   Making college more affordable and student loan debt more manageable;

o   Building on our technology boom;

o   Expanding access to health coverage and homeownership, and;

o   Providing access to job training and skills programs.

*         The President will continue to act with Congress and on his own where he can to build on this progress to expand opportunity for Millennials and all Americans. He’ll continue to pursue commonsense steps that we could take right now to help our economy immediately and over the long-term.

*         Today’s report explored 15 key facts about the Millennial Generation:

  1. Millennials are now the largest, most diverse generation in the U.S. population
  2. Millennials have been shaped by technology
  3. Millennials value community, family, and creativity in their work
  4. Millennials have invested in human capital more than previous generations
  5. College-going Millennials are more likely to study social science and applied fields
  6. As college enrollments grow, more students rely on loans to pay for post-secondary education
  7. Millennials are more likely to focus exclusively on studies instead of combining school and work
  8. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, Millennials are much more likely to have health insurance coverage during their young adult years
  9. Millennials will contend with the effects of starting their careers during a historic downturn for years to come
  10. Investments in human capital are likely to have a substantial payoff for Millennials
  11. Working Millennials are staying with their early-career employers longer
  12. Millennial women have more labor market equality than previous generations
  13. Millennials tend to get married later than previous generations
  14. Millennials are less likely to be homeowners than young adults in previous generations
  15. College-educated Millennials have moved into urban areas faster than their less educated peers

 

 

 

9/27 Remarks by the President at the Congressional Black Caucus Awards Dinner

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

AT CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS AWARDS DINNER

  Walter E. Washington Convention Center

  Washington, D.C.

9:06 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, CBC!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Everybody, have a seat.  It is good to be with you here tonight.  If it wasn’t black tie I would have worn my tan suit.  (Laughter.)  I thought it looked good.  (Laughter.)

Thank you, Chaka, for that introduction.  Thanks to all of you for having me here this evening. I want to acknowledge the members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Chairwoman Marcia Fudge for their outstanding work.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Shuanise Washington, and the CBC Foundation for doing so much to help our young people aim high and reach their potential.

Tonight, I want to begin by paying special tribute to a man with whom all of you have worked closely with; someone who served his country for nearly 40 years as a prosecutor, as a judge, and as Attorney General of the United States:  Mr. Eric Holder.  (Applause.)  Throughout his long career in public service, Eric has built a powerful legacy of making sure that equal justice under the law actually means something; that it applies to everybody — regardless of race, or gender, or religion, or color, creed, disability, sexual orientation.  He has been a great friend of mine.  He has been a faithful servant of the American people.  We will miss him badly.  (Applause.)

This year, we’ve been marking the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.  We honor giants like John Lewis — (applause); unsung heroines like Evelyn Lowery.  We honor the countless Americans, some who are in this room — black, white, students, scholars, preachers, housekeepers, patriots all, who, with their bare hands, reached into the well of our nation’s founding ideals and helped to nurture a more perfect union.  We’ve reminded ourselves that progress is not just absorbing what has been done — it’s advancing what’s left undone.

Even before President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, even as the debate dragged on in the Senate, he was already challenging America to do more and march further, to build a Great Society — one, Johnson said, “where no child will go unfed, and no youngster will go unschooled.  Where no man who wants work will fail to find it.  Where no citizen will be barred from any door because of his birthplace or his color or his church.  Where peace and security is common among neighbors and possible among nations.”  “This is the world that waits for you,” he said.  “Reach out for it now.  Join the fight to finish the unfinished work.”  To finish the unfinished work.

America has made stunning progress since that time, over the past 50 years — even over the past five years.  But it is the unfinished work that drives us forward.

Some of our unfinished work lies beyond our borders.  America is leading the effort to rally the world against Russian aggression in Ukraine.  America is leading the fight to contain and combat Ebola in Africa.  America is building and leading the coalition that will degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.  As Americans, we are leading, and we don’t shy away from these responsibilities; we welcome them.  (Applause.)  That’s what America does.  And we are grateful to the men and women in uniform who put themselves in harm’s way in service of the country that we all love.  (Applause.)

So we’ve got unfinished work overseas, but we’ve got some unfinished work right here at home.  (Applause.)  After the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, our businesses have now created 10 million new jobs over the last 54 months.  This is the longest uninterrupted stretch of job growth in our history.  (Applause.)  In our history.  But we understand our work is not done until we get the kind of job creation that means everybody who wants work can a find job.

We’ve done some work on health care, too.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we’ve seen a 26 percent decline in the uninsured rate in America.  (Applause.)  African Americans have seen a 30 percent decline.  And, by the way, the cost of health care isn’t going up as fast anymore either.  Everybody was predicting this was all going to be so expensive.  We’ve saved $800 billion — (applause) — in Medicare because of the work that we’ve done — slowing the cost, improving quality, and improving access.  Despite unyielding opposition, this change has happened just in the last couple years.

But we know our work is not yet done until we get into more communities, help more uninsured folks get covered, especially in those states where the governors aren’t being quite as cooperative as we’d like them to be.  (Applause.)  You know who you are.  It always puzzles me when you decide to take a stand to make sure poor folks in your state can’t get health insurance even though it doesn’t cost you a dime.  That doesn’t make much sense to me, but I won’t go on on that topic.  (Applause.)  We’ve got more work to do.

It’s easy to take a stand when you’ve got health insurance.  (Laughter and applause.)  I’m going off script now, but — (laughter) — that’s what happens at the CBC.

Our high school graduation rate is at a record high, the dropout rate is falling, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  Last year, the number of children living in poverty fell by 1.4 million — the largest decline since 1966.  (Applause.)  Since I took office, the overall crime rate and the overall incarceration rate has gone down by about 10 percent.  That’s the first time they’ve declined at the same time in more than 40 years.  Fewer folks in jail.  Crime still going down.  (Applause.)

But our work is not done when too many children live in crumbling neighborhoods, cycling through substandard schools, traumatized by daily violence.  Our work is not done when working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate, even as corporate profits soar; when African-American unemployment is still twice as high as white unemployment; when income inequality, on the rise for decades, continues to hold back hardworking communities, especially communities of color.  We’ve got unfinished work.  And we know what to do.  That’s the worst part — we know what to do.

We know we’ve got to invest in infrastructure, and manufacturing, and research and development that creates new jobs.  We’ve got to keep rebuilding a middle class economy with ladders of opportunity, so that hard work pays off and you see higher wages and higher incomes, and fair pay for women doing the same work as men, and workplace flexibility for parents in case a child gets sick or a parent needs some help.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to build more Promise Zones partnerships to support local revitalization of hard-hit communities.  We’ve got to keep investing in early education.  We want to bring preschool to every four-year-old in this country.  (Applause.)  And we want every child to have an excellent teacher.  And we want to invest in our community colleges and expand Pell Grants for more students.  And I’m going to keep working with you to make college more affordable.  Because every child in America, no matter who she is, no matter where she’s born, no matter how much money her parents have, ought to be able to fulfill her God-given potential.  That’s what we believe.  (Applause.)

So I just want everybody to understand — we have made enormous progress.  There’s almost no economic measure by which we are not better off than when I took office.  (Applause.)  Unemployment down.  Deficits down.  Uninsured down.  Poverty down.  Energy production up.  Manufacturing back.  Auto industry back.  But — and I just list these things just so if you have a discussion with one of your friends — (laughter) — and they’re confused.  Stock market up.  Corporate balance sheet strong.  In fact, the folks who are doing the best, they’re the ones who complain the most.  (Laughter and applause.)  So you can just point these things out.

But we still have to close these opportunity gaps.  And we have to close the justice gap — how justice is applied, but also how it is perceived, how it is experienced.  (Applause.)  Eric Holder understands this.  (Applause.)  That’s what we saw in Ferguson this summer, when Michael Brown was killed and a community was divided.  We know that the unrest continues.   And Eric spent some time with the residents and police of Ferguson, and the Department of Justice has indicated that its civil rights investigation is ongoing.

Now, I won’t comment on the investigation.  I know that Michael’s family is here tonight.  (Applause.)  I know that nothing any of us can say can ease the grief of losing a child so soon.  But the anger and the emotion that followed his death awakened our nation once again to the reality that people in this room have long understood, which is, in too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement.

Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement, guilty of walking while black, or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness.  We know that, statistically, in everything from enforcing drug policy to applying the death penalty to pulling people over, there are significant racial disparities.  That’s just the statistics.  One recent poll showed that the majority of Americans think the criminal justice system doesn’t treat people of all races equally.  Think about that.  That’s not just blacks, not just Latinos or Asians or Native Americans saying things may not be unfair.  That’s most Americans.

And that has a corrosive effect — not just on the black community; it has a corrosive effect on America.  It harms the communities that need law enforcement the most.  It makes folks who are victimized by crime and need strong policing reluctant to go to the police because they may not trust them.  And the worst part of it is it scars the hearts of our children.  It scars the hearts of the white kids who grow unnecessarily fearful of somebody who doesn’t look like them.  It stains the heart of black children who feel as if no matter what he does, he will always be under suspicion.  That is not the society we want.  It’s not the society that our children deserve.  (Applause.)  Whether you’re black or white, you don’t want that for America.

It was interesting — Ferguson was used by some of America’s enemies and critics to deflect attention from their shortcomings overseas; to undermine our efforts to promote justice around the world.  They said, well, look at what’s happened to you back home.

But as I said this week at the United Nations, America is special not because we’re perfect; America is special because we work to address our problems, to make our union more perfect.  We fight for more justice.  (Applause.)  We fight to cure what ails us.  We fight for our ideals, and we’re willing to criticize ourselves when we fall short.  And we address our differences in the open space of democracy — with respect for the rule of law; with a place for people of every race and religion; and with an unyielding belief that people who love their country can change it.  That’s what makes us special — not because we don’t have problems, but because we work to fix them.  And we will continue to work to fix this.

And to that end, we need to help communities and law enforcement build trust, build understanding, so that our neighborhoods stay safe and our young people stay on track.  And under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department has launched a national effort to do just that.  He’s also been working to make the criminal justice system smarter and more effective by addressing unfair sentencing disparities, changing department policies on charging mandatory minimums, promoting stronger reentry programs for those who have paid their debt to society.  (Applause.)

And we need to address the unique challenges that make it hard for some of our young people to thrive.  For all the success stories that exist in a room like this one, we all know relatives, classmates, neighbors who were just as smart as we were, just as capable as we were, born with the same light behind their eyes, the same joy, the same curiosity about the world — but somehow they didn’t get the support they needed, or the encouragement they needed, or they made a mistake, or they missed an opportunity; they weren’t able to overcome the obstacles that they faced.

And so, in February, we launched My Brother’s Keeper.  (Applause.)  And I was the first one to acknowledge government can’t play the only, or even the primary, role in the lives of our children.  But what we can do is bring folks together, and that’s what we’re doing — philanthropies, business leaders, entrepreneurs, faith leaders, mayors, educators, athletes, and the youth themselves — to examine how can we ensure that our young men have the tools they need to achieve their full potential.

And next week, I’m launching My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, asking every community in the country — big cities and small towns, rural counties, tribal nations — to publicly commit to implementing strategies that will ensure all young people can succeed, starting from the cradle, all the way to college and a career.  It’s a challenge to local leaders to follow the evidence and use the resources on what works for our kids.  And we’ve already got 100 mayors, county officials, tribal leaders, Democrats, Republicans signed on.  And we’re going to keep on signing them up in the coming weeks and months.  (Applause.)  But they’re going to need you — elected leaders, business leaders, community leaders — to make this effort successful.  We need all of us to come together to help all of our young people address the variety of challenges they face.

And we’re not forgetting about the girls, by the way.  I got two daughters — I don’t know if you noticed.  (Laughter.)  African American girls are more likely than their white peers also to be suspended, incarcerated, physically harassed.  Black women struggle every day with biases that perpetuate oppressive standards for how they’re supposed to look and how they’re supposed to act.  Too often, they’re either left under the hard light of scrutiny, or cloaked in a kind of invisibility.

So in addition to the new efforts on My Brother’s Keeper, the White House Council for Women and Girls has for years been working on issues affecting women and girls of color, from violence against women, to pay equity, to access to health care.  And you know Michelle has been working on that.  (Applause.)  Because she doesn’t think our daughters should be treated differently than anybody else’s son.  I’ve got a vested interest in making sure that our daughters have the same opportunities as boys do.  (Applause.)

So that’s the world we’ve got to reach for — the world where every single one of our children has the opportunity to pursue their measure of happiness.  That’s our unfinished work.  And we’re going to have to fight for it.  We’ve got to stand up for it.  And we have to vote for it.  We have to vote for it.  (Applause.)

All around the country, wherever I see folks, they always say, oh, Barack, we’re praying for you — boy, you’re so great; look, you got all gray hair, you looking tired.  (Laughter.)  We’re praying for you.  Which I appreciate.  (Laughter.)  But I tell them, after President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he immediately moved on to what he called “the meat in the coconut” — a voting rights act bill.  And some of his administration argued that’s too much, it’s too soon.  But the movement knew that if we rested after the Civil Rights Act, then all we could do was pray that somebody would enforce those rights.   (Applause.)

So whenever I hear somebody say they’re praying for me, I say “thank you.”  Thank you — I believe in the power of prayer.  But we know more than prayer.  We need to vote.  (Applause.)  We need to vote.  That will be helpful.  It will not relieve me of my gray hair, but it will help me pass some bills.  (Laughter.)

Because people refused to give in when it was hard, we get to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act next year.  Until then, we’ve got to protect it.  We can’t just celebrate it; we’ve got to protect it.  Because there are people still trying to pass voter ID laws to make it harder for folks to vote.  And we’ve got to get back to our schools and our offices and our churches, our beauty shops, barber shops, and make sure folks know there’s an election coming up, they need to know how to register, and they need to know how and when to vote.

We’ve got to tell them to push back against the cynics; prove everybody wrong who says that change isn’t possible.  Cynicism does not fix anything.  Cynicism is very popular in America sometimes.  It’s propagated in the media.  But cynicism didn’t put anybody on the moon.  Cynicism didn’t pass the Voting Rights Act.  Hope is what packed buses full of freedom riders. Hope is what led thousands of black folks and white folks to march from Selma to Montgomery.  Hope is what got John Lewis off his back after being beaten within an inch of his life, and chose to keep on going.  (Applause.)

Cynicism is a choice, but hope is a better choice.  And our job right now is to convince the people who are privileged to represent to join us in finishing that fight that folks like John started.  Get those souls to the polls.  Exercise their right to vote.  And if we do, then I guarantee you we’ve got a brighter future ahead.

Thank you, God bless you.  Keep praying.  But go out there and vote.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END                9:29 P.M. EDT

First Lady Michelle Obama will spend Monday in Atlanta

According to travel guidance provided by the White House, Obama’s day begins with an event with Education Secretary Arne Duncan at Booker T. Washington High School — where Martin Luther King Jr. attended before leaving early for Morehouse College. Obama will tour a college fair and then give a speech in the school gymnasium that promotes her “Reach Higher” initiative, pushing students to complete post-secondary education.

For more information:

http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2014/09/03/michelle-obama-to-rally-raise-money-for-michelle-nunn/

FACT SHEET: President Obama Applauds New Commitments in Support of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 21, 2014

FACT SHEET: President Obama Applauds New Commitments in Support of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative

“That’s what ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ is all about. Helping more of our young people stay on track. Providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future. Building on what works – when it works, in those critical life-changing moments.”

– President Barack Obama, February 27, 2014

In February, as part of his plan to make 2014 a year of action focused on expanding opportunity for all Americans, the President unveiled the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.  As part of the initiative’s launch, the President also established the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force to review public and private sector programs, policies, and strategies and determine ways the Federal Government can better support these efforts, and how to better involve State and local officials, the private sector, and the philanthropic community.

Today, the President will announce new commitments in support of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative at the Walker Jones Education Center in Washington, DC.  Following the announcement, the President will hold a town hall session where he will take questions from the group of DC-area youth who will attend the event. During the session, the President will highlight how the My Brother’s Keeper initiative and the Administration continue to work to build ladders of opportunity for all young people across the country.  In attendance at the event will be leaders from 60-plus school districts across the country with the Council of the Great City Schools, parents, business leaders, athletes, mayors and members of Congress.

Today, Magic Johnson Enterprises’ Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Deloitte CEO Joe Echevarria launched the National Convening Council (“NCC”), an independent private sector initiative bringing together leaders from business, philanthropy and the faith, youth and nonprofit communities.  Over the next several months, the NCC will travel the country, lifting up examples of cross-sector efforts that are having a positive impact on boys and young men of color.

Creating Opportunity for All

For decades, opportunity has lagged for boys and young men of color. But across the country, communities are adopting approaches to help put these boys and young men on the path to success.  And the President, joined by foundations, businesses, and many other leaders, wants to build on that success to ensure that all young people, including boys and young men of color, who are willing to work hard have an opportunity to get ahead and reach their full potential.

The My Brother’s Keeper initiative encourages the use of proven tools that expand opportunity for young people, including access to basic health, nutrition, mentorship, high-quality early education and early introductions into the workforce, as well as partnering with communities and police to reduce violence and make our classrooms and streets safer.

On May 30th, the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force released its 90-day report.  This report includes key indicators that will provide a comprehensive view of the environments and outcomes for boys and young men of color and their peers.  It also contains recommendations on steps our society can take to begin to expand opportunity for all in areas including:

o   Entering school ready to learn;

o   Reading at grade level by third grade;

o   Graduating from high school ready for college and career;

o   Completing post-secondary education or training;

o   Entering the workforce; and

o   Reducing violence and providing a second chance.

The Administration is doing its part by identifying programs and policies that work, and recommending action that will help all our young people succeed.  Since the launch of My Brother’s Keeper, the President’s Task Force has met with and heard from thousands of Americans, through online and in-person listening sessions, who are already taking action.

New Commitments

Today, leading private sector organizations announced independent commitments that further the goals of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative and directly address some of the key recommendations in the Task Force Report.

Reducing High School Dropout Rates, Improving the Worst Performing Schools and Actively Recruiting High Quality and Sustained Mentors:

  • The NBA, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) announced a five-year commitment in partnership with MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, Team Turnaround and the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS).

o   Through the partnership, these organizations will support a public service announcement campaign designed to recruit 25,000 new mentors, with a specific emphasis on recruiting men of color.

o   The NBA and its teams will work with educators in at-risk schools across many of their franchise cities to provide incentive programs that increase attendance and improve overall school performance.  Current and former NBA players will also participate in a series of grassroots, “lessons in leadership and teamwork” workshops in schools and after-school organizations that will inspire boys and young men of color to take charge of their lives, make good decisions, and be successful in their pursuit of education.

  • AT&T announced an $18 million commitment this year to support mentoring and other education programs with a mentoring component as part of the company’s Aspire initiative – a $350 million commitment focused on high school success and workforce readiness for students at risk of dropping out of school.

o   AT&T is launching the Aspire Mentoring Academy Corps, powered by AmeriCorps, AT&T and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership to support AmeriCorps members in regions around the country and engage thousands of at-risk youth in mentoring activities.

o   AT&T will expand the engagement of its employees through the Aspire Mentoring Academy with a goal to provide students who are at risk of dropping out of high school with 1 million hours of mentoring by the end of 2016.

o   AT&T is using technology to scale its efforts through online mentoring, developing a mentoring app and piloting a program that mentors students through the CISCO IT certification process, thus developing critical Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills.

Creating High Schools for the New Economy

  • With a commitment of $50 million, the Emerson Collective, founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, along with partners from Silicon Valley and elsewhere, will collaborate with districts and educators to launch a competition to find and develop the best designs for next generation high schools. 

o   Efforts will include connecting some of Silicon Valley’s best innovators and design thinkers with some of the country’s most effective and inventive educators and students to create schools for the new economy and provide models that can be adopted by other schools in the future.

o   This school redesign initiative aims to use the best in design thinking, education research and practice and technology to create new school environments to dramatically increase the engagement and success of currently underserved students enabling them to achieve and compete at the highest levels and provide the supports, tools and resources educators need to be and feel engaged, effective and supported.

Encouraging and Supporting Comprehensive Cradle-to-College-and-Career Community Solutions for Youth:

  • Today, the leaders of 60 of the largest school systems in the country, which collectively educate nearly three million of America’s male students of color, have joined in an unprecedented pledge to change life outcomes of boys and young men of color by better serving these students at every stage of their education. 

o   Through an eleven-point plan that stretches from early childhood to graduation, these school districts will better support boys and young men of color by focusing on strategies with proven results.  These include expanding access to high quality preschool, implementing or scaling early warning systems to prevent grade retention, establishing programs to reduce suspensions and expulsions, increasing access to advanced and rigorous coursework and ensuring increased FAFSA completion.

Expanding Access to Advanced Placement (AP) Courses and Rigorous College Prep:

  • The College Board is investing over $1.5 million for “All In”, a national College Board program to ensure that 100% of African American, Latino, and Native American students with strong AP potential enroll in at least one matched AP class before graduation.

o   As part of their “All In” commitment, the College Board is partnering with all 60 school superintendents who have signed on to the CGCS pledge to identify and reach out to young men of color who have demonstrated the potential to succeed in AP classes.

Creating Entry-Level Job, Mentorship and Apprenticeship Opportunities for Youth:

  • Citi Foundation is making a three year, $10 million commitment to create ServiceWorks, a groundbreaking, national program that uses volunteer services to help 25,000 young people in ten cities across the United States develop the skills they need to prepare for college and careers.

o   The program, which will deploy 225 AmeriCorps members over three years, will engage youth, age 16-24, in service and build a large-scale volunteer response to the crisis of low college and career attainment.  The young people – in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Newark, San Francisco, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. – will receive training in critical 21st century leadership and workplace skills, the chance to build their networks and connections to their communities, and the opportunity to use their new skills by participating in and leading volunteer service projects.

o   Thousands of professionals – including Citi employees – will participate as volunteer mentors and trainers.

Disproving the Negative Narrative:

  • Discovery Communications will invest more than $1 million to create an original independent special programming event to educate the public about issues related to boys and men of color and address negative public perceptions of them.

o   The program will show specific youth stories and the interventions that made a difference in their lives as an illustration of ways to impact the future of boys and men of color.  This 1-hour program will air across Discovery networks and is scheduled to air in 2015.

o   Discovery Education will also host a series of screenings and town halls in partnership with community based non-profits to discuss “My Brother’s Keeper” stories of intervention and ways that communities can get involved and help address this important issue facing our Nation.

Building on Successful Evidence Based Programs that Recruit High Quality and Sustained Mentors:

  • Becoming A Man (B.A.M.) and Match tutoring programs announced $10 million in new funding.

o   The funding will support the expansion of B.A.M. and Match tutoring programs, in addition to supporting a large-scale study on the programs’ long-term effects conducted by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and Urban Education Lab. B.A.M. is a mentoring and cognitive behavioral therapy program developed by the nonprofit organization Youth Guidance. Match is an intensive, individualized math tutoring intervention developed by Match Education.

o   The commitment is made possible by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools.

o   With this announcement, B.A.M. and Match are also committing to expand to 3-5 new cities over the next three years.

MBK Task Force Commitments

Through the MBK Task Force, a federal interagency working group created by Presidential Memorandum, the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Agriculture (USDA), along with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) announced today two new youth corps programs to expand opportunities for youth.  Both programs directly address recommendations in the Task Force Report.  The programs are intended to help young people successfully enter the workforce as well as create additional job opportunities and increase entry-level job, mentorship and apprenticeship options for all young people, including boys and young men of color.

Supporting Disconnected Youth Through Service and Engagement:

  • CNCS and the DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) today announced a jointly funded AmeriCorps program called Youth Opportunity AmeriCorps. 

o   The program, which totals up to $10 million over three years, will enroll disconnected youth in national service programs as AmeriCorps members over the next 3 years.  It includes a mentorship component, in which grantees will provide mentoring support to the AmeriCorps members.

Providing Opportunities that Build Early Career Skills: 

  • USDA and AmeriCorps today announced a landmark new partnership between AmeriCorps and the USDA’s Forest Service, which connects youth with service opportunities to restore the nation’s forests and grasslands.

o   The $3.8 million joint funding will provide resources for both AmeriCorps grantees and member organizations of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC), and will also provide for 300 new AmeriCorps members serving in U.S. Forests.

Previous Private Sector Commitments

  • In June 2014, eleven of the nation’s leading philanthropies announced a $194 million investment in initiatives to expand opportunity for boys and young men of color.
  • In June 2014, UBS America announced a five-year, $10 million commitment to establish a new education platform for improving college success among under-resourced populations. Commencing in three markets — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — with an intensive program focused on young men of color, UBS NextGen Leaders aims to empower students with the skills, knowledge and experience needed to succeed in college and compete in the global marketplace.
  • In June 2014, JPMorgan Chase & Co. launched the expansion of “The Fellowship Initiative: Expanding the Horizons of Young Men of Color,” to provide boys and young men of color with long-term fellowships and pathways to jobs. The program involves a $10 million commitment to expand the effort to three cities serving nearly 200 youth.

PRESS RELEASE: Chinese Government signs MOU with Historically Black Colleges & Universities in Beijing Today

Chinese Government signs Memorandum of Understanding with Historically Black Colleges & Universities in Beijing Today

HBCUs and Chinese universities meet to discuss implementation of 1,000 scholarships for HBCU students to study in China

(BEIJING) – A delegation of presidents and senior administrators from eight American Historically Black Colleges & Universities signed an MOU today with the China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE), China’s nationwide nonprofit organization conducting international educational exchanges and cooperation on behalf of the Ministry of Education.

The delegation also participated in the HBCUs-Chinese Universities Roundtable where they engaged in dialogue with their Chinese university counterparts to discuss mutually agreed upon processes for implementing the 1,000-scholarship award initiative.

“We’re delighted to be a part of this historic moment in progressive global student exchange and study. This collaboration between the Chinese government and HBCUs provides an excellent opportunity to enable our students to become competent in Chinese history and culture, and will significantly enhance their abilities to be successful global leaders throughout the world,” said Dr. David Wilson, president of Morgan State University and the delegation’s leader. Dr. Wilson signed the MOU on behalf of the delegation.

The MOU formally acknowledges the 1,000 scholarships for HBCU students announced by Vice Premier Liu Yandong at a November 2013 Capitol Hill meeting in Washington, D.C. between leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus and HBCU presidents from Howard University, Morgan State University, Tougaloo College and Xavier University of Louisiana.

The HBCUs meetings in Beijing this week are parallel to the 5th U.S.-China Consultation on People to People Exchange (CPE) being held in Beijing from July 9-11, 2014. The CPE is co-hosted by U.S. Sec. Of State John Kerry and China’s Vice Premier Madam Liu Yandong, China’s highest-ranking government official overseeing education. The CPE is designed to enhance and strengthen ties between the citizens of the United States and the People’s Republic of China in the areas of culture, education, science and technology, sports, and women’s issues. On Wednesday, July 10, the HBCU delegation will attend the closing session of the CPE meetings with Sec. Kerry and Vice Premier Liu.

The HBCU trip to China is the culmination of the collective works of the Chinese government and the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), a Hong Kong-based nonprofit organization that encourages and facilitates exchanges among public policy makers, civic leaders, think tanks, academia, and business organizations in the U.S. and China to enhance understanding and mutually beneficial relationships. CUSEF hosted and organized the first meeting of the HBCUs with Vice Premier Liu during the HBCU’s first visit to China in September 2013.

The other HBCU delegates to Beijing are: Dr. Beverly Hogan, president of Tougaloo College, Dr. John S. Wilson, Jr., president of Morehouse College; Dr. Pamela Hammond, provost of Hampton University; Dr. Weldon Jackson, provost of Bowie State University; Dr. Myra Burnett, vice provost of Spelman College; Dr. Barbara Inman, V.P. for Student Affairs, Hampton University; Dr. T. Joan Robinson, V.P. Division of International Affairs, Morgan State University; Dr. Anthony Wutoh, Assistant Provost for International Affairs, Howard University; Dr. Kathleen Kennedy, dean of the School of Pharmacy, Xavier University of Louisiana; Dr. Clarissa Myrick-Harris, dean of Humanities & Social Sciences, Morehouse College; Dr. Loye Ashton, director of International Studies, Tougaloo College; and Dr. Ruihua Shen, director of Chinese Studies, Morehouse College.

A key goal of the HBCU – Chinese University Collaboration is to encourage and increase international educational study opportunities for diverse students to study in China. The HBCU delegation’s visit from the U.S. side is managed and organized by Julia Wilson, CEO and founder of Wilson Global Communications, an international consultant to the HBCU pilot group, and the liaison representative for the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF). In China, the CEAIE is managing logistics on behalf of the Ministry of Education.

FAMU Professor and Engineering Student Named Fulbright Scholars

FAMU Professor and Engineering Student Named Fulbright Scholars

Researchers will study Nigerian plants to find engineering, medical solutions

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida A&M University (FAMU) mechanical engineering doctoral candidate Renee Gordon and biochemistry professor Ngozi Ugochukwu, Ph.D., have been named Fulbright Scholars. The prestigious Fulbright Scholars Program is a highly competitive international education exchange program that awards grants to students, faculty or professionals who wish to study, teach and conduct research abroad. Both Gordon and Ugochukwu will conduct respective research on the indigenous resources of Nigeria.

ReneeGordon

Renee Gordon, Engineering Student Takes Green Ambitions to Nigeria
Gordon is the first student in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering to receive the Fulbright grant. Her research will focus on using biomass, specifically Nigeria’s cassava leaves, as a green alternative to case hardening steel. She will reside at Nigeria’s Federal University of Technology (FUT) in Akure, which partners with FAMU in a mutual teaching and research exchange program.

According to Gordon, receiving the Fulbright grant brings her closer to fulfilling her desire to do something “forward thinking and innovative” with the indigenous resources of Nigeria. Her goal upon completing her Ph.D. is to work in green engineering with a focus on sustainable and alternative energy and to eventually return to FAMU as a professor to share her knowledge and experiences with others.

“It’s about using sustainable materials and resources that don’t take away from our fossil fuels and using materials that can be regenerated and regrown,” said Gordon about the focus of her research, which picks up where her mentor and research supervisor Peter Kalu, Ph.D. left off.

Kalu, a 3M Distinguished Research Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and 2009-2010 Fulbright Scholar, also conducted research on how Nigeria’s cassava leaves could be used as an alternative method for hardening metal. His research was essential to the establishment of FAMU’s exchange program with FUT.

“We’re making headway there and she’s going to really take the research further,” said Kalu, expressing confidence in his protégé’s potential.

Gordon is a first generation American citizen by way of Jamaica, and first generation college graduate. She said receiving the Fulbright grant is a milestone in the progress of her research after having to overcome several obstacles in order to continue her work.

When Gordon and Kalu were invited to present their research at the Fifth International Conference on Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Computation in Cape Town, South Africa in 2013, the duo had planned to have research samples delivered to Nigeria to complete an important heat treatment process phase of the cassava project, however a lack of resources and funding limited them in getting the samples to their destination, until then-Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., stepped in to help.

After receiving the funding they needed, Gordon and Kalu were able to journey to Nigeria for six days prior to their presentation in South Africa, complete the heat treatment and return stateside to continue the research.

“My mom has always instilled in me that I should go as far as I can with my education,” said

Gordon. “I’ve had a lot of hurdles and stumbling blocks, so it’s great for it to come full circle.”

NgoziUgochukwu

Ngozi Ugochukwu, Ph.D., Professor Journeys to Nigeria to Combat Diabetes
Ugochukwu will also complete her research in Nigeria at FUT in Minna. Her research will focus on ethnopharmacology, the study of ethnic groups and their use of drugs. She will also conduct research on bioactive compounds and their role as leads for drug discovery, and uses for traditional medicine in diabetes therapy.

Ugochukwu has been researching diabetes since her tenure began at FAMU in 1998. Her expertise includes the use of biochemical and gene technology techniques in deciphering the underlying mechanisms in the pathophysiology of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, congestive heart failure and colon cancer. Her research focus also includes finding effective preventive strategies and therapies for these diseases.

“Diabetes is considered by the World Health Organization and International Diabetes Foundation as one of the major threats to human health in the 21st century,” said Ugochukwu. “The Fulbright grant will give me the opportunity to collaborate with researchers at the FUT Minna Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and the Global Institute for Bio-exploration to scientifically screen and identify anti-diabetic bioactive phytonutrients in indigenous Nigerian plants.”

According to Ugochukwu, this collaborative research could accelerate the discovery and development of new phytopharmaceuticals for diabetes therapy.

Her passion for diabetes research began while she was working on her Ph.D. in Nigeria. Her mission then was to find a fundamental human chronic disease that didn’t have a cure. Her research ultimately led her to diabetes.

“I have this inner quest to find some form of therapy for diabetes,” Ugochukwu said. “Especially because I have done research on the underlying root causes, which are oxidative stress and inflammation. So, discovering anything that will quell those things will be key.”

“I work with chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, congestive heart failure, colon cancer and the like, and underneath them all you see diabetes surfacing its ugly head,” she added.

In addition to her research, Ugochukwu will teach classes in biochemical pharmacology, clinical biochemistry and biochemistry laboratory including virtual proteomics exercises.

She attributes much of her success in research to the support of the FAMU research community, especially her students.

“I am elated about my selection as a Fulbright grantee,” Ugochukwu said. “It’s quite an honor to be recognized by this prestigious body. However, I must attribute this to the collaborative research work my graduate students and I have conducted on chronic diseases over the years at FAMU.”

Remarks by the First Lady in Commencement Address to Dillard University

REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY

IN COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS TO DILLARD UNIVERSITY

UNO Lakefront Arena

New Orleans, Louisiana

 

10:33 A.M. CDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, my goodness!  Good morning!

 AUDIENCE:  Good morning.

 MRS. OBAMA:  I am so happy to be here with you all.  I’m proud to be here in the Big Easy.  Look at you all!  (Applause.) You look good. 

 STUDENT:  You do too! 

 MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you.  (Laughter.)  I want to start by thanking Nicole for that very kind introduction and for sharing her story, which is not too unfamiliar to me — because they told me I couldn’t be where I am, too.  So I want to thank Nicole.  I’m proud of her.  Thank you for the selfie; I think that’s the first selfie I’ve done at a commencement.  So, Nicole, you’re my first.  (Laughter.) 

And of course, I want to thank the Dillard University Choir.  Oh, oh, oh!  (Applause.)  Oh!  That’s all I can say.  It’s like you want to start something up in here, right?  (Laughter.)  It’s like, now we got a commencement going on up in here.  (Laughter.)  That was beautiful, beautiful.  Thank you so much.  

I also want to recognize Senator Mary Landrieu, who is here.  Let’s give her a hand.  (Applause.)  She has been a strong supporter of this university. 

I want to thank the Dillard University Board of Trustees.  I want to thank the faculty, the staff, and, of course, your tremendous president, Dr. Walter Kimbrough.  (Applause.)  Now, my husband has been called a few things over the years, but he has never had the honor of being referred to as the “Hip Hop President.”  (Applause.) 

I also want to thank all the folks from the University of New Orleans for hosting us here today.  And I know they’re hosting the folks at Southern University at New Orleans for their commencement later on today as well, so we wish them a wonderful day.  And thank you for having us.  (Applause.) 

And of course, I’ve got to give a big shout-out to all the family members in the crowd, all of the family members — (applause) — especially to the mothers, because it is the day before Mother’s Day.  To all the mothers, Happy Mother’s Day.  (Applause.) 

Now, graduates, you all handled your business, right?  Just because you were graduating didn’t mean you — come on, now.  (Laughter.)  Okay, well, if you didn’t, you have my permission to get up and go right now, because there is nothing more important — no, no, don’t get up.  (Laughter.)  Your mothers would kill you if you got up at this moment.  (Laughter.)  So just stay in your seats, and when this is all over make sure you take care of mom.

But in all seriousness, to all the moms out there –- as well as the dads and the grandparents, the uncles, the aunts, the brothers, the sisters, all of you who have helped raise these graduates — you have seen them through their ups and downs, and you have poured your hearts and souls into these men and women.  So today is your day, too, and you should be very proud.  You really should.  (Applause.) 

And finally, most of all, I want to congratulate the beautiful and handsome men and women of the Dillard University Class of 2014.  Yay!  (Applause.)  You all have come so far, I know, to make it to this day — from all those early days when the girls were sneaking out of Williams Hall to go see the boys over at the Duals — oh yeah, I did my research — (laughter) — to all those tests you crammed for, to the plans you’re making now for your careers, to go on to graduate school.   

You all have seen so much.  You’ve witnessed this school’s rebirth after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina –- the new buildings that replaced the ones you lost, the classrooms that started filling back up again, the service projects that you all have done to help this community bounce back.  And I know along the way that each of you has written your own story of resilience and determination to make it here to this day.

For example, as you heard, Nicole was told back in high school that she just wasn’t college material.  But now she is your class president, and she’s headed off to Yale for her graduate degree.  So there.  (Applause.)  That’s it. 

And I know that some of you may come from tough neighborhoods; some of you may have lost your homes during Katrina.  Maybe you’re like DeShawn Dabney, a graduate who was raised by his grandmother — (applause) — maybe — that’s your grandmother, isn’t it, DeShawn?  (Laughter.)  Raised by his grandmother while some of his family members were dealing with issues.  Maybe just like him, you’ve been working part-time jobs since you were a teenager to make your dream of going to college come true.  And now, today, you’re all here ready to walk across this stage and get that diploma.

And no matter what path you took to get here, you all kept your hearts set on this day.  You fought through every challenge you encountered, and you earned that degree from this fine university.  And in doing so, you are following in the footsteps of all those who came before you, and you have become an indelible part of the history of this school –- a history that, as you all know, stretches back to well before the Civil War, back to 1826, the year a child named Emperor Williams was born. 

Now, Emperor was born into slavery.  But as he grew up, he managed to teach himself to read and write well enough to create a pass that allowed him to come and go around the city without getting hassled.  But one day, his master saw the pass and he said, where did you learn to write like that?  Now, just imagine the fear Emperor must have felt when he heard that question — because remember, back then it was illegal for a slave to learn to read or write.  So who knows what kind of punishment he may have gotten –- a beating, a whipping, even worse. 

We don’t exactly know what happened on that day, but we do know that when Emperor turned 32, after more than three decades in bondage, he became a free man.  He decided to stay in New Orleans, and he went on to become a minister — even founded a church right here in town.  And in 1869, when abolitionists, missionaries, black folks and white folks came together to create a school for freed slaves here in New Orleans, Emperor was one of the original signers of the charter.  

They decided to name the school New Orleans University, because even though most of the classes would be taught at a high school level or below, oh, their aspirations were much higher than that.  And when they laid the cornerstone for that university’s first building down on St. Charles Avenue, Emperor got a chance to speak. 

He said — and these are his words — he said, “For twenty years I was a slave on these streets.  It was a penitentiary offense to educate a Negro.  I have seen my fellow-servants whipped for trying to learn; but today here I am [am I], speaking where a building is to be erected for the education of the children of my people.”  He goes on to say, “I wonder if this is the world I was born in.”

See, in the course of his short lifetime, Emperor saw education go from being a crime for black folks to being a real possibility for his kids and grandkids.  So no wonder he was asking whether this was the same world he’d been born into.  See, for a man like Emperor, getting an education could open up a whole new world of opportunity.  An education meant having real power.  It meant you could manage your own money.  It meant you couldn’t get swindled out of land or possessions when somebody told you to just sign on the dotted line; sometimes even determined whether or not you could vote. 

So most folks back then saw education as the key to real and lasting freedom.  That’s why, when New Orleans University and the other African American college in town, Straight University, first opened their doors, one of the biggest problems they faced was too many students.  That’s right –- too many students.  Many of these students barely spoke English; they’d grown up speaking Creole or French.  Few had ever seen the inside of a classroom or even been taught their ABCs. 

But let me tell you, those students were hungry — you hear me?  Hungry.  They studied like their lives depended on it.  They blazed through their lessons.  And that hunger for education lasted for generations in the African American community here in New Orleans. 

When an arsonist set fire to the school’s library in 1877, they built a new one.  When those two original schools ran into financial troubles years later, they started making plans to build an even bigger and better university.  And in the 1930s, when white folks complained that this new school would mean too many black students on their buses, the folks at the school got the city to add a bus line just for their students, because nothing –- nothing –- was going to stop them from achieving the vision of those early founders.  (Applause.)   

And finally, in May of 1934, they broke ground for this school, Dillard University — (applause) — a university that would go on to produce some of the leading thinkers and achievers in our country.  And the day the cornerstone was laid for your library, the President of Howard University spoke these words:  He said, “There lies in this Southland today, buried in unmarked graves, many a black genius who would have blessed this city and this section of our country, if [only] his parents could have had before them the Dillard University you are now building.”

And in the years since then, through segregation and depression, through threats of violence and the floodwaters of a devastating storm, students like you have come here to study and to learn, and to carry forward those hopes and dreams.  And today, I stand before a sea of young geniuses.  Oh, yeah.  (Applause.) 

So, graduates, I hope that you understand that this day is not just the culmination of your own dreams, but the realization of the dreams of so many who came before you.  And you should be so proud, and so happy, and so excited about your futures.  But what you shouldn’t be is satisfied.  (Applause.)  See, because while it is a wonderful thing that all of you are here today, we have to ask ourselves, what about all those geniuses who never get this chance? 

I’m talking about the young people from right here in New Orleans and across the country who aren’t part of a commencement like this one today, kids no different from all of us, kids who never made it out of high school.  The fact is that today, the high school graduation rate for black students is improving, but it is still lower than just about any other group in this country.  And while college graduation rates have risen for nearly every other demographic, including African American women, the college graduation rate for African American men has flatlined. 

See, and the thing is, when our young people fall behind like that in school, they fall behind in life.  Last year, African Americans were more than twice as likely as whites to be unemployed.  They were almost three times as likely to live in poverty.  And they were far more likely to end up in prison or be the victims of violent crimes. 

Now, perhaps when you hear these statistics, you might think to yourself, well, those numbers are terrible, but I’m not part of the problem.  And you might be thinking that since you’re not one of those statistics, and you’re sitting here wearing that nice black robe today, you can go on your way and never look back. 

But folks like you and me, we can’t afford to think like that — never.  See, because we’re the lucky ones, and we can never forget that we didn’t get where we are today all on our own.  We got here today because of so many people who toiled and sweat and bled and died for us — people like our parents and grandparents and all those who came before them, people who never dreamed of getting a college education themselves but who worked, and saved, and sacrificed so that we could be here today.  We owe them.  (Applause.)  We owe them. 

And the only way to pay back that debt is by making those same kinds of sacrifices and investments for the next generation. And I know sitting here right now, that task could seem a bit overwhelming.  I know it could seem like the deck is stacked way too high against our young people.  And the truth is that some of the problems we face –- structural inequality, schools that lag behind, workplace and housing discrimination -– those problems are too big for one person to fix on their own. 

But that’s still no excuse to stand on the sidelines.  Because we know that today, education is still the key to real and lasting freedom — it is still true today.  So it is now up to us to cultivate that hunger for education in our own lives and in those around us.  And we know that hunger is still out there –- we know it. 

We see it in students like DeShawn and Nicole and all of you who scraped and clawed so you could make it to this day.  We see it in the single moms who work three jobs so their kids might have a shot at earning a degree like yours.  (Applause.)  We see that hunger all around the world — in that young woman named Malala who was shot on her school bus in Pakistan just for speaking out in support of girls getting an education, and the more than 200 girls kidnapped from their own school in Nigeria for wanting an education -– (applause) — young people who are knowingly risking their lives every day just to go to school. 

And in fact, you’ve seen that hunger right here at Dillard: your valedictorian, three salutatorians are all from Nigeria.  (Applause.)  They studied hard at an early age, earned scholarships to come here to this university, achieved 4.0 GPAs.  And now they are off pursuing master’s degrees, work in software development, teaching math and science to young people here in the United States.

See, now, that’s the kind of hunger for education that we have to reignite in all of our communities.  It’s the same hunger that gave life to this university, the same hunger that defined so many of our parents and grandparents — including my own.  You see, my parents never went to college, but they were determined to see me and my brother and all the kids in our neighborhood get a good education.  (Applause.)   

So my mother volunteered at my school — helping out every day in the front office, making sure our teachers were doing their jobs, holding their feet to the fire if she thought they were falling short.  I’d walk by the office and there she’d be.  (Laughter.)  I’d leave class to go to the bathroom, there she’d be again, roaming the halls, looking in the classrooms.  And of course, as a kid, I have to say, that was a bit mortifying, having your mother at school all the time. 

But looking back, I have no doubt that my classmates and I got a better education because she was looking over those teachers’ shoulders.  (Applause.)  You see, my mom was not a teacher or a principal or a school board member.  But when it came to education, she had that hunger.  So she believed that our education was very much her business. 

And we need more people who think and act like my mother, and all those mothers out there, because the education of our young people is all of our business.  That’s what Emperor Williams thought.  That’s what the folks here in New Orleans thought as they worked to rebuild this campus after Katrina.  And as graduates of Dillard University, that’s how we need you to think every single day for the rest of your lives.  

You all have opportunities and skills and education that so many folks who came before you never could have dreamed of.  So just imagine the kind of impact that you’re going to make.  Imagine how you can inspire those around you to reach higher and complete their own education.

And you can start small.  Start by volunteering at an after-school program, or helping some high school kids fill out their college applications.  Show them the path that you took.  Or you can think a little bigger — you can get your entire congregation or your community to start a mentoring program; maybe convince your new employer to sponsor scholarships for underprivileged kids.  Or maybe you could think a little higher — maybe you could run for school board or Congress, or, yes, even President of the United States.  (Applause.)   

And then maybe you could build preschools for every single one of our kids.  Maybe you could help turn that pipeline to prison into a highway to college; help give every child in America an education that is truly worth of their promise.  Those are the kind of big dreams that folks who founded this university reached for.  That is how high they set their bar. 

And so we owe it to those folks –- the folks who had the audacity to call their little schools “universities” and name their baby boys “Emperor” –- we owe it to them to reach as high as they did, and to bring others along the way.  As the history of this school has taught us, no dream is too big, no vision is too bold; as long as we stay hungry for education and let that hunger be our North Star, there is nothing, graduates, nothing that we cannot achieve. 

So, graduates, that is your mission.  This is your obligation.  I want you to keep reaching higher.  I want you all to keep raising your bars.  Let the next generation know that there is no greater investment than a good education.  And if you do all of this, then I am confident that you will uphold that duty and write your own chapter into the legacy of this great university.  And let me tell you something, I cannot wait to see the world that your children will be born into.  

Congratulations.  I love you all.  I am honored to be here.  I am proud of you.  God bless you.  And thank your families.  (Applause.)

                     END                10:56 A.M. CDT