Obama outlines creation of rare black-focused program

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“We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices,” Mr. Obama said to graduates of the all-male and historically black school. “Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. But one of the things you’ve learned over the last four years is that there’s no longer any room for excuses. … Whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured — and overcame.”

In his new initiative, first announced in the president’s State of the Union address in January, Mr. Obama is expected to emphasize the concept that young black men should be able to succeed if they work hard — and if they have opportunity provided by the program.

He’s expected to offer a range of strategies through a joint effort with businesses and foundations to encourage young black men to stay in school and out of prison. The president also will direct his administration to step up the government’s evaluation of what programs work best in helping young black males.

But Mr. Peterson, founder of The Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, said the president won’t deliver the message of personal responsibility, or the policies of job creation, that young black men truly need to thrive.

“Barack Obama’s just going to offer more government, and that’s not what black Americans need,” Mr. Peterson said. “I’d like to hear Barack Obama encourage black Americans, men and women, to get married before having children out of wedlock. You have 73 percent of black babies being born out of wedlock, and no government program will ever change that. Stop focusing on color, and as Martin Luther King Jr. said, go back to character. They need to develop character.”

White House aides and other supporters of the president say he has promoted a wide range of policies to help people struggling to get into the middle class, including blacks, with programs such as the Affordable Care Act, expanded education and job training, and his push to raise the minimum wage.

The initiative also builds on Mr. Obama’s pledge to use his pen and phone in this “year of action,” to take steps when Congress won’t.

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