President Obama Highlights Success of Harlem School in Anti-Poverty Push

U.S. president's "Promise Zones" initiative delivers additional economic aid to poor neighborhoods.
3:00 | 01/09/14

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Transcript for President Obama Highlights Success of Harlem School in Anti-Poverty Push
Welcome to the why does everybody in. -- -- -- -- -- -- We're so product PR for the introduction and -- story. And you just so pours them. I'm no Jeff -- is just they're all excited. And proud so and I don't -- I know she is she should be. You know -- and the rest of these young people. Grew up in a 97 square -- sectional. As a place where the -- used to be stacked against them. Every single day. Even -- graduated from high school was challenge. But with the help of some very dedicated adults. And a program called -- Harlem's children -- The right on track to go to college. Together. Students. Teachers administrators. Parents community. They're changing the odds. In this neighborhood. And that's what we're talking about -- Changing the odds for every American child so that no matter who they are no matter where they are born. They had a chance to succeed in today's economy. Now that the good news is that thanks to the hard work and sacrifice but the American people. All across the country over the last five years our economy. Has grown stronger. Our businesses -- created more than eight million new jobs since the depths of the recession. Our manufacturing. -- housing sectors are rebounding our energy and technology and auto industries are booming. And we've got to keep our economy growing gonna make sure that everybody is sharing in that world. We've got to create keep creating jobs and that we've got to make sure that wages and benefits are such that families can rebuild will be to secure. We've got to make sure this recovery which is real. Leaves nobody behind. That's -- me and my focus. Throughout the year this is going to be a year of action. As of the American people expect. And there -- ready and willing to pitch in and help this is not just a job for government whose job forever but. Working people are looking for the kind of stable secure jobs that. Too often went overseas in the past couple of decades so next week -- drug companies and colleges. And take action to boost high tech manufacturing the kind that attacked -- good new jobs. And helps grow. A middle class. Business owners are -- play their part to hire more workers of this month I'm gonna -- CEOs here at the White House not once but twice. First to lay out specific steps we consider it take to help more workers are on the skills they need for today's new jobs seconds. They're gonna announce amendments. There were making to put more of the long term unemployed back to work. And on January 28 in my State of the Union Address. Which I want all the legislators here Norman try to keep the -- shorter than usual. Nurturing. Side. I will mobilize the country around the national mission of making sure our economy offers every American who works hard but fair shot at success. Anybody in this country works hard should have a fair shot at success. Period. No matter where they come from what region of the country what they look like what their last name is they should be -- succeed. And you know obviously were coming off. Rancorous political year but. I genuinely believe that this is not a partisan issue. He -- when you talk to the American people you know that. -- people working in soup kitchens people who were mentoring and people who were starting small businesses and hiring their neighbors and very rarely are they checking -- the Democrat who -- Whose sense of neighborliness. That's inherent in the murder people we just have to tap into that. And I'm been very happy to see that the Republicans like Rand Paul who's here today. Were rating gauge in this debate that's a good thing. We've got. You know democratic and Republican elected officials. Across the country -- were ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work and this should be challenged the unites us all. I don't care whether the ideas or Democrat or Republican I do care that they work. I -- care that they. Are subject to. -- valuation and and we can see if we are using tax dollars and a certain way of work. Sort of a certain program ought to make sure that young people like you are -- for actually benefiting from. That's one thing to say. We should help more Americans get ahead. But -- street we've got actually make sure. That we do it and -- work with anybody who's willing to lay out some concrete ideas. To create jobs help more middle class families find security in today's economy. And offer new -- -- to -- for folks to climb into the middle class. Personally I hope we start by -- the majority of the American people and restoring the unemployment insurance for Americans who need little help. It's for their families while they look for a new job and I'm glad that Republicans and Democrats and senator working together to -- that lifeline. -- -- their colleagues in the house will join them to set this right. Today I want to talk about something very particular specific example of how we can make a difference. We are here -- leaders -- were determined to change the odds in their communities. The way these kids and their parents dedicated citizens. Have changed the odds and -- It's now been fifty years since president Johnson declared an unconditional war on poverty in America. Meg groundbreaking effort created new avenues of opportunity for generations of Americans. -- strengthen our safety net for working families and seniors. Americans with disabilities. And the -- So the one we've fallen. You never know what life brings yet. We can bounce back faster that made us a better country and a stronger country. In his speech fifty years ago president Johnson talked about communities on the outskirts of hope. -- opportunity was hard to come. While today's economic challenges are different. But they've still resulted in communities where in recent decades wrenching economic change has made opportunity harbor or the comeback. Their communities were -- to many young people. It feels like the future only extends to the next reform -- the outskirts of town. Too many communities where no matter how hard you work your destiny is. Feels like -- -- been determined for you before you took that first step. I'm not just talking about pockets of poverty in our inner cities. And that's the stereotype. I'm talking about suburban neighborhoods that have been hammered by. The housing crisis I'm talking about manufacturing towns that still haven't recovered after the local plant shut down and jobs dried up. There islands of rural America where jobs are scarce they were scares him before the recession hit. -- -- young people feel like if they want -- actually succeed they've got to leave town they got to leave their communities. And I've seen this personally even before god and politics in fact this is what drove -- and politics I I was just two years. Out of college when I first moved. For the Southside of Chicago I was hired by a group of churches. To help organize. A community that have been devastated when local steel plants closed their doors. And I've walked through neighborhoods filled up -- board up houses crumbling schools and single parents and dads who had nothing to do with their kids -- Kids who were hanging out on the street quarters without any hope or prospects for the future. But these churches came together in the -- -- working with other nonprofits and there's local businesses and the government local state and federal participated and -- get some things done that gave people hope. And that experience taught me the government does not have all the answers no amount of money can take. The place of a loving parent in the child's life. But I did learn the one communities and governments and businesses and nonprofits worked together. We can make a difference. -- -- All the young people for -- We can make a difference. For the last seventeen years -- -- Harlem children's zone. The brainchild Geoffrey Canada who's here today. -- as proven. We can make a difference. And operated on -- basic premise that each child will do better if all the children around them are doing better. So in Harlem staff members go door to door -- recruit. Soon to be parents. For maybe college. Preparing them for those. Crucial first few months of life. Making sure that they understand how to talk to their child. Read to their child. Sometimes wearing her parents to teach them -- -- -- so they can -- their truck. Give them you know that the help -- that they need. And then early childhood education to get kids learning that four years old. And -- a charter school. That help students succeed all the way through high school. And medical care and healthy foods that are available close to home and exercise I'm very pleased to hear. The -- was very pleased to hear -- Haven't got they've got a strong because that program. And then students getting help finding internships and applying to college. And an outstanding dedicated staff tries to make sure nobody slips through the -- -- -- falls behind. And this is an incredible achievement. The results have been tremendous. Today preschool students in the Harlem's children zone are better prepared for kindergarten. Last year a study found that students who win a spot in one of the charter -- score higher on standardized tests than those who don't. In a neighborhood were higher education was once just something that other people did you got hundreds of kids who have now -- to college. And -- -- community -- found success taking on these challenges together and in Cincinnati -- focus on education has helped to make sure more kids are ready for kindergarten. In Nashville they re design high schools and -- graduation rates by almost 40% over the past twelve years. In Milwaukee. That cut teen pregnancy and half. Every communities -- Different needs different approaches but communities that are making the most progress on these issues. Have some things in -- They don't look for a single silver bullet. Instead they bring together local governments and nonprofits and businesses and teachers and parents around assured goal that's -- Jeffrey did when he started. The Harlem children's -- government was involved. So so don't be confused here it has -- important role to play and already there government resources going -- of these communities but. It's important that. Our -- institutions and our businesses. And the parents in the communities themselves are involved in designing and thinking through how we move forward. And the second thing is. They're holding themselves accountable. By delivering measurable results. We don't -- fun things we don't start projects. Just for the sake of -- To got to work if they don't work which try something else. And and sometimes those of us who. Cared deeply about advancing opportunities. Are willing -- subject. Some of these programs to that test do they work. My State of the Union Address last year I announced our commitment to identify. More communities. Like these urban rural tribal. We're dedicated citizens are determined to make a difference in turn things around us and we challenge them. We said. If you can demonstrate the ability and the will to launch an all encompassing all hands on deck approach to reducing poverty and expanding opportunity. We'll help you get the resources to do. -- takes up resources from some of the programs -- -- Dornan. And concentrate them will make sure that our agencies are working together more effectively. We'll put in. You know talent to help you plan. But -- also gonna hold you accountable and measure progress. And if you're doing real. Stuff that is making a difference in the lives of young people like you are. There weren't going to be -- your country we'll help you remake your community on behalf of your kid's family by family block by block. We call these communities promise else. For neighborhoods where we will help. Local efforts to meet one national -- that a child's course in life should be determined not by about -- coaches born in but by the strength of will work ethic. And the scope of her dreams. So we're here today. To announce the first five promise -- and America. And I could not be prouder to be joined by mayor -- study of Los Angeles and mayor Michael Nutter. A Philadelphia. And councilwoman IB -- from San Antonio. Chief Gregory pile. Warmer tribal leaders and Jerry richter from the Kentucky highlands investment corporation. Some -- leaders from these neighborhoods. Who are helping to make it happen. In the east side neighborhood of San Antonio nearly four. In ten adults don't have -- high school diploma the violent crime rate is 50% higher in the rest of the city. So schools and community members are focused on getting more kids in the pre K. Boosting math and science in high school and they're putting more cops. On foot patrol to make their neighborhoods safer. The project worth investing. In a section -- LA that stretches from Pico union to Hollywood the population decreased by thirteen thousand people in just ten years so. Developers are working to build more affordable housing technical schools and Community Colleges are helping more people get the training they need to get jobs. -- -- project worth investing. In filling. Nearly four out of every ten kids lives below poverty and a lot of more on what silence. So local universities helping connect middle and high school students would mentors to get them ready for college. You've got to supermarket -- being planned it will create jobs and provide healthy food where there's been too little of both. We're gonna invest -- them. Senator Mitch McConnell -- their conduct. Their communities that have been struggling for decades with shut down some -- So they're taking steps. Locally initiated to attract new businesses and create new jobs in new industries. You've got local college -- stepping up to expand technical training and help more kids get a higher education. In the cocked -- nation of Oklahoma where up to half of the residents in -- -- live. In poverty community leaders -- -- Change things. And they're making financing available to help women start their own businesses are investing in -- water and sources to -- may hear more attractive. For companies looking to locate there and they're helping farmers ranchers -- more jobs and more families. Thereby give access to healthy foods. So these are America's first five -- And over the next three years we're gonna help launch -- -- and all. In each of these communities is designing. From bottom up -- the top down what is they think they need and were working with them to make that happen. And each of these communities prepared to do what it takes to change the odds for their kids. We will help them succeed. How -- a handout. But as partners. -- them every step of the way. And want to make sure it works. -- hold them accountable make short is making a difference. In the lives of pets. As a nation we've got plenty of reasons to hope. And I just -- and -- one story just to give you a sense of what we're talking about. Roger Brown came here today or tomorrow where is right. There is right. I used editor -- like that -- And and maybe after. Done with the presence. Go back to that. Brought up. I don't want to listen to Rodman's story because because it's unique and it's special but it's also represented. -- brought up -- spent some time. In the Foster Foster care system. Before want to live with his mom who was working two jobs -- against -- When Roger was in sixth -- and his mom and heard his name in the promise academy charter school lottery. And prayed. And Roger won a spot. Now the way I hear -- -- you were still. Having some problems sometimes. He was the class clown and acting almost got himself expelled. But the teachers -- the staff did not give up on they saw something in him they kept pushing him. And then once summer when Roger was home visiting his Foster family he looked around the room and he realized that nobody in that room had gone to college. And nobody in that room had a job. And -- that moment something clicked and Roger decided he wanted something better for himself. And for -- -- and for his two sisters who looked up -- so Roger -- down. He went from failing his classes to passing his classes he became -- member of the first graduating class at the promises kept. And today Roger is a sophomore. Today -- a sophomore at Hunter College in New York won the best colleges in the country. The first person -- family get that far. And now he wants to go to medical school and become -- -- -- If you want to know why I care about this stuff so much. It's because. I'm not that different from -- There was a period of time my wife were. I was goofing off. I was raised by single mom I didn't know my dad. The only difference between -- and Roger was my environment was more forgiving -- That's -- difference. If I screwed up. The consequences weren't quite as great. So the project American and I can make it. If you are could make -- every kid in this country can make. But we've got to believe -- that. -- give lip service to. And it can't just get caught up them a bunch of political arguments. There are legitimate questions about how the best way to do this. Is how we -- -- make progress. And their legitimate -- to be had about how big a role is government and that process a bigger role for private sector. And there's no disagreement that there has to be individual initiative. -- -- gotta start inside. Roger had to have a change of attitude I had -- change that -- She bright immediate change meditation. Focus. The whole time. We don't dispute that but but we do know. That sometimes we talk about this stuff is if we care and -- we don't deliver we don't follow through we don't make the effort it's not sustain -- we lose interest. In them. We -- -- sells well maybe nothing can be done. And we put up what. And as a consequence lot of our kids get lost. We can't allow that to happen. -- that's what the promise zones represent. I want more kids have the chance that Roger -- -- -- more kids to have the chance this country gave me. We should all want every one of our kids and their families to have a shot at success. If you were on the dream big and work hard you should -- with the same opportunities in life. As any other child -- in any other place. That's were fighting for. That's what America's about. So let's act let's make it happen this -- -- -- -- -- -- --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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