THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Hello! Everybody, please have a seat. Welcome to the White House.
Thank you, Malachi, for the great introduction and being a great role model for the young people coming up behind you. I was watching the introduction on the screen -- he's very telegenic. (Laughter.) We might have to run him for something at some point. (Laughter.) We're so proud of you.
And I want to make sure that we introduce the other young men who are behind me, as well, because they've got equally compelling stories. Devin Edwards, coming out of MBK Boston. Devin, wave. There you go. (Applause.) And as well as Bunker Hill Community College in Greater Boston. Jerron Hawkins, Howard University. (Applause.) White House Mentorship and Leadership Program. You already met Malachi. Noah McQueen, Morehouse College. (Applause.) One of our mentors. Luis Ramirez, MBK Oakland Career and Opportunity Fair. (Applause.) And Quamiir Trice, MBK Philadelphia. Howard University. (Applause.)
These young people behind me are proof that a little love, a little support allows them to achieve anything they can dream, anything they can conceive. Since day one, my administration has been focused on creating opportunities for all people. And by almost every measure, this country is better off than it was when I started. (Applause.) But what we've also long understood is that some communities have consistently had the odds stacked against them -- and that's especially true for boys and young men of color.
All of you know the statistics and the stories of young people who had the intelligence, the potential to do amazing things, but somehow slipped through the cracks. And I've said this before -- I see myself in these young people. I grew up without a father. There were times where I made poor choices, times where I was adrift. The only difference between me and a lot of other young men is that I grew up in a more forgiving environment. I had people who encouraged me and gave me a second chance.
That's why Michelle and I have dedicated so much of our time to creating opportunities for young people. We know this is not just an urban problem; it's not just a people of color problem. This is a national challenge -- because if we're going to stay ahead as a nation, we're going to need the talent of every single American. And even more than that, this is about who we are as a country, what our values are, whether we're going to continue to be a place where if you work hard you can succeed, or whether we continue to see stagnation and diminishing mobility and the ladders of opportunity cut off for too many people. The only way we live up to America"s promise is if we value every single child, not just our own, and invest in every single child as if they're our own.
It's almost three years ago, we launched the My Brother's Keeper initiative to give more of our young people the tools and the support that they need to stay on track for a bright future. We knew this couldn't just be a government initiative. We knew that our concerns couldn't be sporadic, just inflamed by the latest high-profile shooting or some other disturbance. It has to be sustained, thought through. Progress had to be measurable.
So we put out a call for action across the country. And I've just got to say, the response was incredible. Hundreds of you -- mayors, tribal leaders, county executives have created MBK communities in all 50 states, as well as D.C. and Puerto Rico. Businesses and foundations, many of whom are represented here today, are working across sectors and investing more than a billion dollars in proven pathways for young people.
In just a few years, the progress we've made is remarkable. So I just wanted to come by and say thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you for stepping up to the challenge. Thank you for being great partners in this work. Thank you for believing in our young people.
I also want to say thank you to the young men who are here and who came in from across the country, and many of whom are watching or may be listening, who've been part of this initiative. I've had a chance to meet many of these young people. Everybody on this stage, I've had significant conversations with. I've heard their stories and I've seen young men like this grow into confident, capable, responsible men. Many of you have overcome unbelievable obstacles -- obstacles that most people never have to face. It hasn't always been easy, but look at the progress that you've inspired. I could not be prouder of these young people and so many who are participating around the country.
And this is just the beginning. We are going to keep these efforts going to invest in our young people, to break down barriers that keep them from getting ahead, and to make sure that they've got a chance to contribute. And we're going to need more of you to be mentors and role models and supporters for this next generation. As they keep moving up in the world, then we're going to call on them to reach back and invest in the folks who are coming behind them.
And that's the final point I want to make. My Brother's Keeper was not about me, it was not about my presidency. It's not even just about Malachi and all these amazing young men behind me. It's about all of us working together. Because ensuring that our young people can go as far as their dreams and hard work will take them is the single most important task that we have as a nation. It is the single most important thing we can do for our country's future. This is something I will be invested in for the rest of my life, and I look forward to continuing the journey with you. (Applause.)
So to the young people who are here, thank you. To folks who are investing and supporting this effort, thank you. But we are just scratching the surface.
For every one of these young men, there are tens of thousands -- hundreds of thousands who are not currently being reached. And although it is important for us to poke and prod and push government at every level to make the investments that are necessary -- to ensure our schools are properly funded and are teaching the kids what they need to learn, that we are investing and making sure that there are jobs available in communities so that people can see that there is a right path to go down that will result in them having a bright future; although there's infrastructure that has to be built by the government to ensure that our young people can succeed and prosper in this 21st century economy -- we can't wait for government to do it for us.
We've got to make sure that we're out there showing what works. We've got to put our own time and energy and effort and money into the effort. We have to be rigorous in measuring what works. We can't hang onto programs just because they've been around a long time. We can't be protective of programs that have not produced results for young people, even if they've produced some jobs for some folks running them. (Laughter.) And we have to make sure that we're casting a wide net so that we're not just cherry-picking some kids who probably have so much drive they'd make it anyway. We've also got to go deep, including in the places like juvenile facilities and our prisons to make sure that some very still-young people are reachable.
So this is going to be a big project. It is as a consequence of neglect over generations that so many of these challenges exist. We shouldn't expect that we're going to solve these problems overnight, but we've got proof about what happens when, as Malachi said, you just give folks a little love and you act on that love. And I'm looking forward to working with you to do that.
Thank you, everybody. God bless. Thank you. (Applause.)