Barack and Michelle Obama: Making Education Cool

January 20, 2009 at 9:59 am 5 comments

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Barack and Michelle Obama, Lincoln Memorial (photo:Getty Images)

Barack and Michelle Obama were set forth as examples of what can be accomplished with a good education at a January 19 rally held by the Education Equality Project at Cardoza High School in Washington, DC. The rally turned into a who’s who of education when big names like John McCain, incoming Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Michael Bloomberg, Geoffrey Canada, Michelle Rhee, and UNCF President Michael Lomax showed up to explain why our educational system is in a state of crisis. Presenter remarks can be found at the bottom of this post.

Summary points:
1. Diverse leaders are coming together over what is considered to be a crisis in our nation: The public education system.
2. Most speakers consider this crisis to be the predominant civil rights issue of our generation.
3. Parent, grandparents, educators, families, neighbors,  and friends were encouraged to tutor, join the PTA, and make their voices heard.

The Education Equality Project states on its website, “Barely half of African-American and Latino students graduate from high school, with African American students graduating at 55%, Latinos at 53%, and their white counterparts at 78%.”

Below are some paraphrased quotes from the event.

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan (Incoming)

Our challenge and our huge opportunity is to take those pockets of excellence and make them the norm and not just the exception. Look at President and Michelle Obama – they are making education cool… They didn’t have a lot of money, but look at what they have become… Public education is the civil rights issue of our generation.

Chancellor Michelle Rhee

Chancellor, DC Public Schools

People often tell me, “You’re trying to move too fast.” And I reply,  “It is not possible to move fast enough.” DC is the only city on alert status by the US Department of Education…Warren Buffett told me it’s actually easy to fix public schools.  All you’d have to do is outlaw private schools and assign kids to public schools by public lottery. We’d see a very fast re-allocation of resources.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich

The Obamas are moving in with their 2 children and Michelle’s mother. They show that families can do it. When I look at my grandkids, I want them to go to college, not to got to prison. I want them to get the best job with the best pay. If you look at the history of Barack and Michelle Obama it is a childhood filled with education and filled with parents and grandparents committed to preparing them with that education. We should have a simple yardstick: Is every child in America getting what they need to live a full life?

Dr. Michael Lomax, President and CEO, United Negro College Fund (UNCF)

Our kids need preparation so that they are prepared to do the work in college…A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Mayor Cory Booker

Newark, NJ

How can we claim to be a great nation when we don’t educate a large percentage of the population?…We are not the America we say we are. I am in the mood for a movement in America, not more excuses… As a democrat, we have not always been right on education. I am no longer concerned with right or left, I am concerned with moving forward.

Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone

As far as the economic crisis, there’s been a depression going on in urban areas for years…The same children in the same communities have been failing in record numbers…If we’re going to do something about this issue, we need to do it now. In the past there has been no penalty for the adults who have failed our children. They continue to work while our children go to jail.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg

New York, NY

We will recover from the economy. We’ve done that before. What we haven’t done is fixed public education. Mayors know what we need in this country. They are the ones parents yell at. You need to tell legislators you’re not going to take it anymore so that they our children are true Americans and have real civil rights.

U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings (Outgoing)

On No Child Left Behind, “I don’t care what we call it. It is about not giving up on any child.”

Mayor Adrian Fenty

Washington, DC

When you say, “All that matters is kids’ test scores and whether they go to college or not” some people get pretty upset. But, that’s the direction we’re heading.

Mayor Kevin Johnson

Sacramento, CA

There are more black men in prison than in college. In this day and age we are allowing the color of their skin and the zip code they live in to impact [our children’s] level of educational attainment.

Chancellor Joel Klein

Chancellor, New York City Schools

I grew up in public housing. My dad never made it through high school. I understand the value of an education…The defenders of status quo are not necessarily going to defend our children. But, whoever’s fault it is, our children didn’t get us there. Everyone of you when you leave here, you go and talk to your neighbors.

Other speakers included: Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia,  Former DC Councilmember Kevin Chavis, Al Sharpton, DC Councilmember Marion Barry,   Eli Broad, and representatives from the Aspen Institute and the Latino Education Alliance.


Entry filed under: Educators, Parent, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

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  • 2. Ntaba Kosi  |  March 20, 2010 at 5:51 am

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  • 3. PETER OYOO MANYA  |  December 16, 2010 at 11:34 am

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  • 4. Berchmans  |  March 13, 2011 at 11:08 am

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  • 5. Frank Simpkins  |  April 27, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    “The Unfinished Business of the Civil Riights Movement: Failure of America’s Public Schools to Properly Educate its African American Student Populations,” vividly describes the current ongoing crisis of America’s mis-education and inability to properly educate its African American students..Many of the details and statistics cited indicates alarming illiteracy rates and high drop-out rates for disadvantaged Black and Latino students across the country..These rates stand in sharp contrast to those of their White peers, and the Black/White academic achievement gap continues to widen..The author mentions other problems afflicting the Black community, including the horrendous incarceration rates of young Black males, the shocking rates of Black abortions, and the “precarious and implosive” condition of the Black family in America..
    He highlights a proven and scientifically tested dialect reading program which showed promising results for Black, functionally illiterate inner-city students in grades 7-12..The author contends that the core of these problems which have dire consequences for the Black community, lay with America’s failure to properly educate its Black student populations..He goes on to connect these problems plaguing the Black community to society as a whole, in order to show that these alarming figures are more than just statistics, they have widespread consequences upon American society..He urges that a ” Second Civil Rights Movement” is needed to gain equal quality educational opportunity for all of America’s children.. We cannot deny these rights to some of our chilodren without disparaging all children and the nation..; May, 2012..


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