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A Conversation With President Obama and Young Men From the Becoming a Man Program

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June 18, 2021
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President Obama sitting in a circle group of medium to deep skin toned younger to middle aged men in a Hyde Park Academy classroom. President Obama wears business casual attie and the men are wearing black BAM youth guidance tshirts and kahkis. The group is meditating.

On Father's Day, President Obama sent the message below to Obama Foundation email subscribers. If you'd like to receive updates like these and other Foundation news, sign up here.


For a few years now, I’ve written to you about the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance’s work to support boys and young men of color, and the importance of that work to the well-being of our families and our country. 

Today, on Father’s Day, I am happy to share that your support is making a difference in the lives of young men, young fathers, their children, and their communities.

Eight years ago, I connected with a group of young men in a high school classroom on the South Side of Chicago who were a part of a program called  Becoming A Man Opens in a new tab . That conversation was a turning point not just for some of those young men, but for me as President. 

That day, I saw first-hand how much good can come from investing in boys who have all the potential in the world, but who often lack the opportunity to learn, grow, and heal on their way to being adult men. As they spoke, I saw in their faces and heard in their voices stories so similar to my own—of growing up without a father, lacking direction, and struggling to know who I wanted to be in the world. 

But I also saw something else. In that room, there were dozens of boys being supported by dedicated mentors who provided space to speak openly and be heard compassionately while processing their experiences. The boys in that room were doing the work of becoming young men, thoughtfully, deliberately, and with the kind of personal support every young person needs and deserves on the road to adulthood. 

I left that conversation even more committed to supporting young men of color. In 2014, we launched My Brother’s Keeper to build a network of businesses, organizations, and local governments all partnering to support the growth and empowerment of young men of color. And once I left office, my Foundation launched the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to expand and sustain the mission to ensure that every young man of color enjoys the same pathways to growth and opportunity as any other American. Today, with the help of donors and partner organizations, we support Becoming A Man and other programs across the United States working to build up young men and boys of color who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with Anderson Cooper to reconnect with some of these young men. Sitting in the same classroom where we first met nearly a decade ago, I listened as young men I had met as children spoke of now being loving fathers, of breaking old cycles and building new ones for themselves and for their children. A young man named James talked about being the father he never had for his own daughter, the kind of father who’s there when she comes home from school, who’s “there for her, through everything.” Another young father named Lazarus described how the Becoming A Man program taught him to speak openly about his experiences, and how he was committed to having healthy, open communication with his own children. 

I think of these young men’s children growing up with the support of healthy, loving, present fathers, and I’m deeply moved by the importance of the work being done across the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to provide opportunities for other young men to become their best selves. I am profoundly grateful for all of the organizers, advocates, mentors, and donors who continue to support this life-changing work. 

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to meet some of the young men I spoke with and see for yourself how transformative this work is. Happy Father’s Day.

—Barack

President Obama sitting in a circle group of medium to deep skin toned younger to middle aged men in a Hyde Park Academy classroom. President Obama wears business casual attie and the men are wearing black BAM youth guidance tshirts and kahkis. The group is meditating.

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