Brown Gives Keynote Address at Second Annual "My Brother's Keeper" Ohio Conference in Columbus

MBK Works to Address Opportunity Gaps Facing Young Men of Color; Brown Helped Launch MBK Ohio Last Year, Has Helped Launch 11 Local Chapters across the State

My Brother's Keeper

COLUMBUS, OH ­– Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Columbus community leaders as he gave the keynote address at the second annual My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Ohio Statewide Conference in Columbus. My Brother’s Keeper was started by President Obama as a national initiative to address the opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color, and to ensure all young people reach their full potential.

“Future scientists and engineers and journalists and teachers and entrepreneurs are sitting in this room right now – and in classrooms all over Ohio that don’t get the resources and the attention they deserve. You just need to be given the chance. That’s what My Brother’s Keeper is all about – connecting students with adults from all different career paths, who can help you succeed,” said Brown.

“Since the launch of MBK Ohio this past year, we’ve been able to build a focused coalition that helps communities collectively set goals, identify and share best practices, and better streamline resources for youth of color. We’re committed to this work for the long-haul, and I’m grateful for all of the partners that have stepped up to join this growing movement to promote racial equity in our communities,” Kyle Strickland, MBK Ohio Director with the Kirwan Institute at The Ohio State University. 

MBK Ohio is aligned with President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper national initiative with the goal of ensuring that all youth receive a quality high school education and graduate with the skills and tools needed to advance to postsecondary education or training. Michael Smith, from the Obama Foundation, also gave remarks at today’s conference.

Brown has been a champion of the My Brother’s Keeper program in Ohio, leading efforts to launch local My Brother’s Keeper initiatives in 11 communities across the state.

Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, can be found below.

Thank you to Kyle Strickland and everyone with MBK Ohio, Michael Smith, Jared Brown, and everyone at the MBK Alliance and the Obama Foundation, everyone at OSU and the Kirwan Institute, and most importantly – thank you to all the students and mentors

President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper in 2014– challenging cities across the country to create opportunity for all students, from all backgrounds.

Future scientists and engineers and journalists and teachers and entrepreneurs are sitting in this room right now – and in classrooms all over Ohio that don’t get the resources and the attention they deserve.

You just need to be given the chance.

That’s what My Brother’s Keeper is all about – connecting students with adults from all different career paths, who can help you succeed.

In 2015, we launched our first two MBK programs in Dayton and Columbus.

Over the next few years, we worked with community partners in cities all over Ohio to launch MBK efforts.

We now have 11 chapters across the state, and last year we launched Ohio MBK here at OSU, to coordinate our efforts around the state.

Speaking to the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance in 2015 President Obama said, “This will remain a mission for me and for Michelle not just for the rest of my presidency, but for the rest of my life.”

That’s why Michael Smith is here today.

The Obama foundation is carrying on this work in Chicago, and we are carrying it on in communities all over our state.

We are not going to let President Obama’s work be undone – all of you are building on his legacy.

We’ve done a few events in Cleveland with NASA and MBK, and one topic that often comes up whenever we talk about those careers is my friend John Glenn.

He was an American hero – but he wasn’t the only one.

Annie Easley was one of the first African Americans to work as a NASA computer scientist, and she helped develop software for the Centaur rocket stage.

But unfortunately, Ohioans like Annie Easley haven’t become household names. We need to change that.

Did any of you see the movie Hidden Figures, that came out a couple of years ago?

It was a great movie – and a reminder that not all heroes look like John Glenn. He could never have taken flight in Friendship 7 without Katherine Goble Johnson, the hero of that movie.

It’s why movies like that one – and events like this – are so important.

These dreams are for you.

That’s what MBK is all about – showing more black and brown kids that there is a whole network of people who want to help them achieve their dreams.

To the students here today, take advantage of this network. Look around you – everyone here wants to help you, and support you. Don’t sell yourself short.

And to all the mentors and potential mentors here – get involved and stay involved.

You have succeeded – often in the face of obstacles similar to what these kids face: schools that we haven’t invested in. Teachers or counselors with low expectations. The racism that’s still all too real in our country.

Share your success. That’s how we create change.

John Lewis is a hero to so many of us, and he and I were both co-chairs of the Congressional delegation to Selma in 2015, to mark the 50th anniversary of the march for voting rights, across the Edmund Pettis bridge.

On the plane to Selma, he told me a story he had told the year before, when he gave the commencement address at Ole Miss.

John grew up on chicken farm in a little town called Troy, Alabama.

John said, as a child I saw those signs that said ‘white men,’ ‘colored men,’ ‘white women,’ ‘colored women,’ ‘white waiting,’ ‘colored waiting.’

I would come home and ask my mother, my father, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, ‘Why?’

They would say: ‘That’s the way it is. Don’t get in the way. Don’t ask questions. Don’t make trouble.’

Then in 1957, at the age of 17, I met Rosa Parks.

In 1958, at the age of 18, I met Martin Luther King Jr., and they said no, John. Ask questions, get in the way, make trouble.

That’s what all of you do – you challenge the status quo, you go up against powerful special interests, and you make good, necessary trouble. That’s how we change the country.

So that’s my charge to you today.

Dr. King said that “progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability.”

It rolls in because we push, we advocate, and we make good, necessary trouble.

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