Broderick Johnson talks about the history, reasons, and impact of the My Brother's Keeper Task Force. February, 2016.
>> Dean Susan Collins: Today, it is really an honor to be introducing Broderick Johnson who joins us as part of the University's month long Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium. And so in that context as well is really a special pleasure to have all of you here with us for today's policy talks. Broderick is Assistant to President Obama, White House Cabinet Secretary and Chair of the President's My Brother's Keeper Task Force. So I suspect that some of you are a little curious to know about just what a Cabinet Secretary does. Well, just briefly, Thurgood Marshall Jr. was the first person to hold this important position under President Clinton. And as you'll hear more about a little bit later today, Broderick Johnson in that role is the primary liaison between President Obama and the many Cabinet departments and agencies. So, during his lecture, I'm sure he'll share quite a bit more about that with us and also about the interagency federal policy process, so much to look forward to. Many in the audience may be quite familiar with My Brother's Keeper which is President Obama's challenge to cities across the country to address the disparity and opportunities for men of color. Detroit took that challenge head on. In fact, one of the Ford School's alumni, Eboni Wells was a huge part of setting up Detroit's response. And I've heard from our guest that Detroit is really developing particularly strong program in that context. And so, Eboni, I wanted to invite you to stand so we could recognize you. Thank you.
[ Applause ]
Well, before chairing My Brother's Keeper taskforce, Broderick was an assistant in the Clinton administration. And he previously served as Chief Democratic Counsel in Congress. He's also been very successful in the private sector. He was a Vice President at AT&T and BellSouth Corporations, a partner with the large international law firm. And in addition he co-founded a strategic consulting business. So, those who know Broderick may know only parts of his very distinguished and varied career, but I suspect that all of them know where he studied law. And his great pride in being University of Michigan Alum, Go Blue. So before I turn the floor over to him, I just want to say a word about our format. Our special guest will speak for about 20 minutes and then we will open things up to the audience for questions. About 10 minutes from now, our staff will be circulating to collect your question cards. You should have received them as you came into the auditorium today, and if you're watching online, please Tweet your questions using the hashtag policy talks. Then Professor Ann Lin, Ford School Professor with two Ford School students, Tabitha Bentley and Eric Riley will facilitate our question and answer session. So, time to get started. Please join me in welcoming Broderick Johnson to the podium.
[ Applause ]
>> Broderick Johnson: Good afternoon. I'm going to try to sit my book here without hitting a delete button on these screens here. So, if I do, I'm sorry. Well, it's great to be here [inaudible]. It's great to be back, yeah, on this beautiful campus. You know, when you're in Washington all the time and you get a chance to go out to a campus like this one and you feel the sense of energy, the excitement, the youthfulness, it warms the heart. And back in DC by the way though, you should-- all should know my-- my west wing office is filled with Michigan [inaudible] remind me of this place, but also so that I can strike up conversations with people who come and visit. And they're like, "Oh you went to Michigan?" And then about a half an hour later, we finally have stopped talking about the University of Michigan. So, it's all over the place and I'm quite proud to have it there. I have really appreciated not having-- not only having gone to the school and graduated from the school, from the great law school, but many important moments in my own life which I'll get to in a few minutes. But, suffice it to say, this place had an enormous impact on my life and my career. I've got mason blue running in my veins. When I hear the fights on, I sometimes get kind of teary eyed, but then you know what the score is when fights comes on.
[ Laughter ]
When I think of Michigan though, I think about a many, many things. I think about President Ford and stories of how he stood up against segregation when he was on the football team here in the 1930s. I think about fellow alums and dear friends from the law school like former Senator and then former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar who was my first year mentor here at the law school, he is a third year student who kept encouraging me and telling me that if I study just a little bit harder, I'd make a lot of view. And that whatever happen, life was going to be good. I think about my dear friend Valerie Jarrett who is also a graduate of law school, Senior Advisor and long time friend of the President and First Lady. I think of great games in the big house over many seasons with law school friends of more than 30 decades. I also think about Lee Bollinger who is my First Amendment Professor back in 1982. And he became Dean of the law school and president of the university. And as you all know, he stood relentlessly in defense of affirmative action. And I think of my friend and President of the Alumni Association, Steve Grafton, a white dude from Mississippi who navigated a largely white alumni association board to take an overwhelming position, supporting affirmative action and opposing Prop 2. Then, a lot of very personal moments for me, very pointed family moments which I'm going to share a bit with you all because Michigan has become a true legacy for my family. I think of my late mom who became a huge Wolverine fan had not attended college, but she adopted the University of Michigan really as here alma mater. We would spend many afternoons, phone calls back and forth about the Michigan games. She'd call me and say, "Did you see that?" "Did you see that mistake?" "Did you see that great play?" I'd say, "Mom, the game is still on, why don't you call a few minutes?"
[ Laughter ]
And one afternoon in 2011, I was able to bring her here to the big house for the first time in her life with my youngest son at that time. And it was cold and-- thank you very much. It was cold, but it was really warm for us to be there and to share that moment. My mother was decked out in mason blue literally from head to toe. I also think about my late father who set foot on a law school campus for the first time in his life in 1983 for my graduation. And I probably put that moment in a context of fulfillment of many of the dreams that my dad had about what would happen for his sons, his daughters, his grand children. And I became really the epitome of the bridge for that for generation. You see when my youngest son came to visit the law school in 2011, he was only 10 years old, his father first step-- set foot on a law school campus when he was 50. So, the idea that his grandson at 10 go to a law school campus was really quite fulfillment of his dreams. And I remember really, really vividly, my son asking me after I brought him to a tour at the law school and anyway at 10 years old, the idea of like visiting a law school late at night on a Saturday night wasn't the coolest thing, but he was intrigued by all of it. And I remember he asked me, he said, "Dad, if I decide to come to school at Michigan, if I decide to come to school at Michigan not, do you think I could maybe qualify?" It was clear in his mind, maybe it's because of all the investment in his education so far that he could come to school here if he decided to. And that would be a choice that he would have and not some far off dream that would take many, many civil rights movements to change. And then when I think of Michigan, I think about my wife Michele Norris formerly with National Public Radio who was invited to give the commencement speech at this university in the winter of 2014. She received an honorary doctorate that day and she closed her inspiring remarks with a bit of mason blue poetry. And she said, "It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine." And the crown broke out in great applause and I'm glad I told her she should do that because he was the icing on a cake to what was really otherwise quite a memorable day. Thank you very much Dean Collins for your most kind introduction for having me back here. And you know how much I love this place. So, Michael Barr is here as well. So Michael and I go back to the Clinton administration and we have a secret between us about a job he took that I didn't take that he did a great job at. And I'm glad he did because it helps us save Washington DC. But, I'm really surprised that my friend Sally Indie [assumed spelling] is here. So, little bit of history, I was in-- between undergrad and grad school. I didn't know what I wanted to do except continue to study philosophy. So there was a program in Bowling Green Ohio, a masters program and something called Applied Philosophy. Many of you applied for that program. OK. So, the best thing about it is that it led people like Sally and I decide that applied philosophy would best be applied if we went to law school and became lawyers. So, I can't remember the last time I've seen you, but it's so great to see you. And we decided on [inaudible] because we came up here on weekend and the football team was playing and it was like, I got to go to school there. So, Sally it's great to see you. Love you. And it's really wonderful to see you. It's an incredible honor and privilege to be here with all of you to bring greetings on behalf of the 44th President of the United States, President Barack Obama. The President has visited the University of Michigan more than any other sitting president. Sometimes, he pokes fun at me though about my Wolverine passion. I don't know why, but he gets it. I remember back in the spring of 2014, the President visited this campus not long after the basketball team had gone as far as making the Elite Eight. The President had not picked the University of Michigan basketball team to go that far. His bracket, you know, it's a big deal made about the President's bracket every year. But he hadn't picked the Wolverines. And so then he had to come here. And so, he stood before our pretty raucous crowd that included several of that year's overachievers like Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson and Nik Stauskas. President manned up and admitted his misjudgment about the team. He also admitted that his bracket, quote, "was a mess." Those are his words. Now, we're talking about a president about a man who makes very few mistakes in sports, politics or government, but he said he learned his lesson and he would never, never choose against the University of Michigan again. One of my jobs as Cabinet Secretary is to make sure that as long as we're there, he does not make that mistake again. So, working in the White House is really the hardest job particularly this time that I've ever had. Cabinet secretary job, some people would describe it as hurting cats, Michael, you know better than that. I would never describe it as hurting cats. There are great-- I say this all sincerity, there are great members of the President's Cabinet throughout. It's great to work with them, but we do have often surreal challenges, unexpected crisis that come. Trying to get things done with the Congress that often times has a lot of challenges working within itself. But I get to work with some of the hardest working people and smartest people on the face of the planet. That being said, there are many improbable and remarkable moments for me, for example, being able to travel with the President and First Lady when they went to Selma last March and to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge with them. Being in the east room of the White House a few weeks ago when the President announced executive actions on guns, and watching him get as emotional as I've ever seen the President that day. Briefing the President in the Oval Office along with the other advisors and you look around, you say, "I'm in the Oval Office and I'm briefing the President. And I have to say something very intelligent." And then, about-- I don't know, maybe two months ago, three months, during the football season, I showed Coach Harbaugh into the Oval Office. This was Monday after the Michigan State game. And Coach Harbaugh had already agreed to come to-- I mean to DC to do something with the First Lady. But the President warned to actually to meet with Coach Harbaugh that day. And so, watching the report between them was really quite something. I even talked a bit about Harbaugh's cockies [phonetic]. I have to admit that the President did not ask Coach Harbaugh, "Hey, where can I get some of those slacks?" But it was really quite a conversation. There was some similarities between the two of them that are quite positive. Now, you all invite me to share or host a personal anecdotes and stories about my life here. And I got a lot more. So in the Q&A if you want to ask for some more, I'll give you some more. But, let's talk about what I do for the President and why it is so rewarding and so incredibly consequential. As was mentioned, I have two primary roles at the White House. I serve as a President's Cabinet Secretary and I serve as the Chair of his My Brother's Keeper Task Force. I'll talk about both of those a little bit and how they indeed intersect actually. Then I'll look forward to having a conservation with all of you. And your questions and suggestions, I look forward to. I was asked to join the senior team at the White House in February of 2014, this White House then. But it's been my privilege to have known Barack Obama since 2003 when he was a US Senate candidate to have helped advice him in that race, in his presidential race the first time, in his reelection campaign, during his two successful terms as President. I should also add that it's been my distinct honor to get to know the President as a friend. He's quite a human being. When I got the call in late 2013, it would have been the professional mistake of my life bar none, if I had said, "No, thank you Mr. President." I can't even imagine saying that, but some people do. But I didn't. And it's a good thing that I didn't because, again, it's hard, but it's incredibly rewarding. The institution of the Cabinet is as old as our democracy. Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution states that the President, quote, "may require the opinion of their principal officer in each of the executive departments upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices" close quote. Today's Cabinet includes the heads of 15 departments, everyone from the secretary of state to the attorney general, to secretaries of relatively recently established departments such as Department of Homeland Security. The Cabinet also includes the heads of agencies that have been extended Cabinet rank like the EPA and the small business administration. The Cabinet secretary wears many hats. Here she serves as a senior advisor to the president sort of part of the board of directors of the President. Here, she servers as a liaison for Cabinet members being the eyes and ears of the president and vice versa to the Cabinet. Here, she coordinates among various departments and an agency's efforts around those-- the many, many policy programs of those departments. And here, she works with Cabinet members on implementation and communication with respect to the President's agenda. The President regularly engages with his Cabinet, the team that I have in the White House coordinates much of that with me. We have formal Cabinet sessions that are held nearly every quarter. You all have seen some of the press around those. You see the presidents in the Cabinet room. And I'll-- what we call a pool spray will come in. This is either video or steel press. The President will have some remarks. The top maybe about the subject of the day that he wants to get out and have press carry. And then, of course, members of the press try to ask the President questions. They yell questions at him. And there are-- shoot out of the room pretty quickly at that point. I recall my first Cabinet meeting. It was in May of 2014. And I'd ask people who'd been there throughout the administration whether I should be prepared to answer any questions, address any issues. And the Cabinet being, they all said "No, it never happened in the history of the republic." You all know what happened. President turned to me at one point and said, "Broderick, would you present this subject to the Cabinet?" I was like, "What happened here? This is not supposed to happen." I said it to myself. I was like, "Yes, Mr. President, of course." And then I have no idea what I said at that point.
[ Laughter ]
In addition to formal Cabinet meetings, however, during my time as Cabinet Secretary we've actually adopted various new approaches to engage in the Cabinet with the President. For example, there are department specific briefings that focus on updates, challenges and related actions. It's a specific sort of one on one engagement, you know, President and the relative-- relative Cabinet secretaries. We also have smaller group meetings that will be based on issue areas. For examples, we have a trade Cabinet, we have a climate Cabinet. These are informal Cabinet designations of groups but they get together and they have done that throughout the time I've been in this White House. President Obama has always been very clear in his guidance to all of us including his Cabinet that we have to anticipate challenges, proactively address them and be candid in observing how departments will stay on track to meet the priorities and objectives. This president is a leader who digs deep into substance like he has a highlighter in his head. You can give him a 30 page memo and you would think he'd get lost somewhere in all of it because there's so much information and he has little time because he has so much stuff to read and yet it's like-- and Michael can attest this, it's like he goes right to the subject or right to the question at the very moment when it needs to be asked. And you just sort of sit there and say, "This man is so unbelievably smart." I've seen it time and time again. He hates small talk and happy talk. So don't be the Cabinet Secretary that comes and says, "Mr. President, everything is great, we're doing just fine," if it's not. If it is, that's great, but it better be. But he doesn't believe that people should airbrush over the challenges that they face. He President's Cabinet is focused on implementation of his priorities in the time that we have remaining in the next 11 months. Policy priorities, but also management priorities and rule makings. And quite honestly, we don't expect to get a whole lot done with the Congress. That's not the top of our list of expectations, although an exception for that will be around criminal justice reform. And we are quite optimistic about being able to get a criminal justice reform bill to the President that he can sign before he leaves office. This President believes that today's challenges require multifaceted holistic solutions by the executive branch. So the Cabinet embodies that approach in a number of ways. Let me share a couple of cross agency collaboration examples. Two weeks ago as you all know, the President visited Detroit to talk about the resurgence of that great American city and in case anyone has forgotten, when we inherited the White House, when the President took office in 2009, a crisis on Wall Street had plunge this nation into a great recession. And the effects were being felt certainly in Detroit. And throughout, communities deeply connected to the auto industry. So in addition, the actions the president took to support the American car manufacturers to indeed to bet on the resurgence, he directed his entire Cabinet to support the recovery of Detroit. Again, the question had been whether or not Detroit would survive. So in a comprehensive fashion, this is what happened. These are just some of the examples. The Department of Treasury certainly reached out to provide capital and state and local finance to the City of Detroit. The Department of Transportation awarded grants and support new buses so that folks in Detroit could get to and from work. The Department of Energy helped install or finance new LED lights that bring security to a community where there were many people who were worried about their safety, of course. While also saving money and reducing carbon footprint. And as I said, I was with the President on his trip to Detroit. And look, not to sugarcoat things, we know there are challenges that still remain in the city of Detroit especially around education, but Detroit without question is on its way back. And the President has directed the Cabinet to remain present in Detroit and to continue to invest in Detroit and look for ways to continue to make change happen in the city of Detroit. Climate change, the end of 2015 saw one of the most consequential moments of this President's legacy and that being the historic agreement coming out of the UN-led COP21 negotiations in Paris. There were many people who said that was just not going to happen that we were not going to be able to achieve much in Paris. Again, the President directed that his whole staff get involved in a tightly coordinated, this whole Cabinet get involve in a tightly coordinated approach. For example, for the EPA, promulgating rules on clean power and clean water, for the Department of the Interior, conservation of American lands and endangered species, for the Department of Energy, standards, renewable energy standards, for the Departments of Transportation and Agriculture, incorporating climate considerations in the policy and grant making and for HUD which recently announced a billion in grants to cities and states to support resiliency planning so that we can mitigate the effects of climate change. At the State Department, Secretary Kerry has made climate a top priority and virtually all of his engagements with other nations for example, China and India. And then, again, with regard to criminal justice reform, the attorney-- the current attorney general and her team have continued the work that was done by the previous Attorney General Eric Holder of new policies looking at what we can do to reform criminal justice to provide reentry opportunities for many in our society, we are looking for a second chance. So there is this comprehensive approach. And it is really one of the hallmarks of this presidency and of this administration. And then it leaves me then to talk for a few minutes about My Brother's Keeper which we also refer to affectionately as MBK. Two and a half years ago, the President spoke from the White House to the entire nation in response to the verdict and the Trayvon Martin case. The President spoke about the angst and anger that parents and families were feeling and about the challenges facing too many of this nation's young people especially boys and young men of color. In those remarks, the President observed that Trayvon Martin could have been his own son where 35 years ago, he could have been Trayvon Martin. The President said, quote, "There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. There has to be more we can give them in this country, a sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them." Not long after President gave those remarks, he now talked about what he could do to really lift up the importance of this work and to use the power of the presidency and the President was very clear that he wanted to go big on this. He wanted to do something significant. He wanted to use his power over the federal government, but also his power to convene people from the private sector to get engaged in this work. So, he launched My Brother's Keeper six months after he had made the remarks about Trayvon Martin from a ceremony in the east room of the White House. That ended up itself, again, quite significant because it demonstrated how this was a priority of this President just by where he held the ceremony to launch this great effort to address persistent opportunity gaps that boys and young men of color are especially confronted with. That was my ninth day working in the White House. It's quite a way to start the work there. During the speech that day, the President reflected on how personal the work is to him. He said, quote, "I could see myself in a lot of these young men." There were young men behind our president that day on the stage. And he still went on to say, "The only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little more forgiving so that when I made a mistake, the consequences were not as severe." He continued, quote, "The plain fact is there are some Americans who in the aggregate are consistently doing worst. In our society, groups have had the odds stacked against them and unique ways that require unique solutions. Groups who've seen fewer opportunities that have span generations. And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color." So here are just a few of those measures that the President was alluding to. I could go on and on with many, many, many negative statistics, but I just want to site a few. Both young men of color are more likely than their peers to be born into low income families and to live in concentrated poverty, to live with one or no parent or to attend high poverty for performing schools. Moreover in schools and in courts, boys and young men of color too often receive harsher penalties for the same infractions as similarly charged white males and are least likely to be given a second change. And finally, boys and young men of color are more likely to live in communities with higher rates of crime increasing the likelihood of negative encounters with police and victimization by violent crime. Black boys for instance are 6% of the nation's population, but more than half of the nation's homicide victims. The President thinks about these issues in a very, very personal way as I mentioned. He talks about it as often as he possibly can. For example which is a few months ago, when he visited El Reno, federal prison in Oklahoma, he said he met young people there who had made mistakes and aren't that different than the mistakes he made and the mistakes that a lot of us make. The difference is that the guys he met at that prison did not have the kinds of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive will get beyond those mistakes. So the President is very clear about this. The challenges our youth face demand that we act with urgency, but also with a sense of a long haul because not only because the challenges are jaw dropping, the disparity is mind numbing, but also because we have an economic obligation. We're compelled to act because there is an economic imperative. If our country is to remain globally competitive, we cannot continue to have so many millions of young people missing from this society. A recent report from the President's own council of economic advisers showed that if we close the gap that exist in labor force participation between 16 to 54 year old men of color and non Hispanic white men of the same age, total US GDP would increase by 2%. So there's an economic imperative as much as there's a moral obligation. So BMK is about obliterating the barriers our kids face in building stronger communities and stronger opportunity streams. In less than 2 years, we could not be more excited about the momentum around MBK, the energy and the enthusiasm we've seen all across the country. Out of the White House, we've essentially adopted a three-pronged approach to the MBK work. First, review and reform of federal policy, second in state and local engagement and third super charged private sector investment and collaboration. Let me briefly talk about those three work streams. First, federal policy, over the course of the past two years, the MBK Task Force which again is an interagency working group of a dozen federal agencies has led to new and expanded grant opportunities out of the Department of Labor, Department of Education, Department of Energy and so on. For example in July of last year, I joined then Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan and Attorney General Loretta Lynch at a correctional facility in Jessup, Maryland. Well, they were there to announce a pilot program called Second Chance Pell, to test new models to allow incarcerated Americans to receive Pell grants to support the pursuit of their post secondary education. And, of course, we've already received hundreds of applications nationwide. The road to prison is paved in many, many instances by poor education. So the way out of prison, of course, for many people has to be a good education and a good job when they get out. Second, in November, the President visited New York, New Jersey which is one of the stronger MBK communities to highlight the reentry process of formerly incarcerated individuals and to announce new actions aimed at helping Americans who have paid their debt to society rehabilitate and reintegrate themselves back into their communities. It was during that visit that the President announced a round-- what we call MBK federal policy deliverables responding to recommendations that were also part of the President's task force on criminal justice. First, banning the box for almost all federal jobs to delay increase and to criminal history, until later in the hiring process so that again, once someone has served their debt, pay their debt to society, they get a fair shot at a federal job. Another was Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice are working together now with the National Bar Association to seal and expunge record for hundreds of young adults who have made mistakes, but who need a fresh start in housing. The Department of Education has awarded millions and grants to help formally incarcerated youth and young adults successfully reenter school and other educational programs. There are dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of new programs that have been launched as a result of MBK across federal agencies. Second, let me talk about place-based-- what we called place-based which is really comprehensive community engagement because that's what will sustain this work past the presidency without question. There are now more than 200 communities that have accepted the My Brother's Keeper community challenge, representing 49 states, the district of Columbia, 19 tribal nations, 49 states. So, the 50th state is going to have a primary next week. So, anyway, that's the hint.
[ Laughter ]
It's been remarkable. There are some states in this country that have as many as 68 to 12 MBK communities. And what is done is brought together, the public sector and the private sector, local government with the help of foundations and others who've been doing this work for a long time to get together and design [inaudible] to college and career action plans to address what we call six milestones in the lives of all young people where we can have the greatest impact on their lives. And we know this based on evidence and data. It's not anecdotal, it's not stuff that we imagine, it's based on our data. So that's the work that's being done in communities all across this country. And it's evidence-based and it's goal-oriented. And it is both urgent and long term. In Detroit, Mayor Duggan announced their MBK local action plan which was developed by more than 100 local leaders and youth from the Detroit area. In the next five years, Detroit plans to recruit and match 5000 new mentors to employ 5000 additional men of color in higher growth industries to reduce suspensions by 50% and to enroll 90% of its four year olds in preschool. And they have matched the resources and the strategies to get that work done. In Boston, the Boston Foundation has invested millions to expand the street state safe outreach programs to youth at risk of violent crime. And they're doing this in coordination with the Boston Police Department and the Mayor's public safety initiative. In Philadelphia, Philadelphia has already reduced school-based arrest by 50% using a new school diversion program. And two weeks ago, Philadelphia announced that it has seen more than $90 million in new investments and MBK programs in Philadelphia alone, $90 million just in Philadelphia. In the District of Columbia, DC has recruited 500 volunteers to serve as mentors and to help increase the percentage of students reading at grade level by the fourth grade. And they'd given more than a hundred student paid internships for next summer. That's the second part. It's the community-based part. The third work stream so to speak is private sector action. So, again, in response to the President's called the action, foundations and business and social enterprises have responded to his call to action by taking a series of steps to provide additional funding aligned with the national initiatives under MBK. Thus far, more than a half billion dollars and grants and in kind resources and a billion dollars and financing from community development finance institutions have been independently committed to advanced emission of MBK. Including investments and safe and effective schools mentoring programs, juvenile justice reforms and school design. And in May of 2015, a group of private sector leaders launched a new startup to My Brother's Keeper Alliance which itself is working to advance the goals of the President's efforts out of the White House. And again, to make sure that the work around this nation is sustained and lasting far beyond January 2017. This new MBK Alliance startup was initiated with more than $80 million and private sector investments and impressive board of directors including the leaders of Fortune 100 Corporations and community-minded celebrities. Earlier this month, the non profit organization, the MENTOR and the National Basketball Association formally launched the in real life campaign as part of the NBA's commitment to My Brother's Keeper. This campaign challenges Americans across the franchise as the NBA is based in to MENTOR, so that every young person who wants to be connected to a mentor has that opportunity. The NBA is using player stories alongside stories about mentors and mentees and updates on grassroot activities shared across the country. You will see throughout the rest of this month, this is NBA's All Star month. You'll see a lot of attention around My Brother's Keeper and the NBA throughout the course of this month. Just recently in USA Today, Bill Russell, one of the greatest players in NBA history released an app that was published in the USA Today about mentoring in My Brother's Keeper. And last week, Kendrick Lamar released a video amplifying his story about the importance of mentoring and how it relates to the President's initiative. So, there's a lot of effort and attention that's being brought to this from the private sector. To sum all these MBK stuff up, let me just say the following. Last May when we were with President Obama in Bronx, and he was there for the creation of the MBK Alliance, he took a moment doing his remarks to speak directly to the youth who were gathered there. And again, I'd say these things in President's own words because these are very, very personal issues to him. He said, quote-- He said this to the young people there, "There's nothing, not a single thing that's more important to the future of America and whether or not, you and young people all across this country can achieve your dreams." The President has been very clear that this will be important work for him after he leaves the White House and his personal capacity will be among his priorities. So for me, whether it's my Cabinet Secretory had on or it's to help lead MBK, everything that I get to do is about disrupting the status quo, focusing on what works in uniting diverse stakeholders to realize the President's vision for a more fair and equitable society. Well, everyone has a fair shot and everybody is in the game. And while admittedly social transformation is complex and often measured over decades, I can personally see from the trips I take across this country that we are getting closer and closer to that goal everyday of a more fair and more equitable society. But again, we have a long way to go, but it is making a difference. And I couldn't be more excited about the future that we will be able to leave behind after we leave the White House and beyond. I want to close with an observation about where we are in the last parts of this presidency, the last 11 months. Really going back to the beginning of what we call a fourth quarter. I would ask you all not to ask me any questions about the Iowa caucuses because I'm not going to talk about those at all. Makes me a little bit too emotional because it-- it's the reality that we are getting closer to the end of this incredible administration. So, I don't gloat, so this isn't a gloat. So let's just stipulate that. After the 2014 mid term elections in which democrats suffered some pretty significant losses across the country, the political media in Washington was quick to assign labels to the President, to his administration, pretty harshly minimizing the remainder of his time in office in many cases. For example there were some commentators who were referring to Barack Obama as the lamest lame duck in American history that he was going to run the clock out. And some even said the President was tired and looking defeated. And I listened to some of that stuff and thought they just don't know. So, that's not been the case. Instead the President said to all of us the day after election, he called all of his senior advisers into a meeting and talked about how we were entering the fourth quarter. And a lot of interesting things happened in the fourth quarter. The President is a huge sportsman as many of you know. So, in the fourth quarter, first part of the fourth quarter which is 2015, under the President's leadership, the following things happened. We had 12 more months of job growth adding to an unparalleled record of consecutive months of job growth. We reached a historic international agreement to combat climate change. We reached an agreement with Iran with other countries around the world that verifiably cut off all of its paths to a nuclear weapon. We advance relations with Cuba. We achieved conclusion of a historic 12 months trade agreement. We saw marriage equality upheld in 50 states. And we also saw a bipartisan agreement to further improve K through 12 education. So that was all in 2015. And, of course, the beginning of 2016, among other things we saw the President's announcement of executive actions to protect-- better protect communities and children across this country from gun violence. All those achievements and all that we will continue to do is not result of an accident or a lucky timing, it really is a result of the President who has still a determination. He looks downfield. His vision is focused on the future and he makes sure that all of us understand that and work with the same approach. So, we're halfway through the fourth quarter. The President and all of us and his Cabinet are going to hustle on every play, on every down. Let me finish with some football analogies. Here's a basketball, there's no-- or maybe it's a football one. There's no prevent defense happening, right? We're not just sort of there and say, "Oh please, don't do this to us." We're just looking for every opportunity to continue to execute until the very end just like they do in the big house in better times. So I thank all of you for listening to me. I look forward to your questions, your observations, your suggestion, again, as long as you're not about the Iowa caucuses. Thank you for listening and Go Blue. So thank you all very much.
[ Applause ]
>> Tabitha Bentley: Good evening. There we go. Good evening everyone. My name is Tabitha Bentley. I'm an MPP student here at the Ford School as well as a PhD student in education. And my research focuses on the ideas of collective impact and using collective impact to promote systematic change in education. And part of that work is actually working with the My Brother's Keeper initiative here in Washtenaw County. And it's great to see some of the county leaders here this evening joining us for this conversation and talk. So, as Dean Collins mentioned, this is our Q&A session and we'd encourage you to continue to write your questions down and feed them to us. And our first question here is from Mr. Johnson, what do you think is a single largest problem faced by young people of color?
>> Broderick Johnson: Well, there's certainly the material problems they face that relate to poor schools living in an impoverished neighborhoods being surrounded by violence, all things that we know to be true and that we have to address. There's also the-- what I would call the perception is that our problems that have to do with the importance of change in the narrative. And by that, I mean, the way they view themselves, the way they think people like us view them, the way we view them, right? Because so much of what we do is based on the expectations, excuse me, that people have about us. So I think as much as anything else, it's about changing the narrative in all those many ways. Did you say there were some young people here from Washtenaw County that you work with or did I misunderstand? Uh-oh, you want my mic?
>> Tabitha Bentley: I think I'm OK. I was mentioning the Washtenaw County. It's My Brother's Keeper initiative and the committee members that are here this evening--
>> Broderick Johnson: Oh, they raised their hands. Great. Thank you. Thank you very much.
[ Applause ]
>> Eric Riley: My name is Eric Riley. I'm a senior in the BA program. And my focus is on urban inequality and specifically how we incorporate social justice in urban development. And the second question we have today is, how do you expect things to change with the change of leadership and what will be your next steps professionally with the conclusion of the Obama administration? Take that how you want. I think it sort of caucus, but not, you know.
>> Broderick Johnson: Do I have to answer the second question?
>> Eric Riley: No. No. I know, I know.
>> Broderick Johnson: So, I can actually-- your first question has to do with how we will continue to work after the end of the Obama administration, is that-- so I guess in several ways, one is as I mentioned, we are-- we have been working across the federal agencies whether it's a Labor Department, the Education Department, even the Energy Department around, National Labs and STEM Education and opportunities. Try to make sure that we are able to make changes that people will be able to point to that had made a difference, you know. Again and the next 11 months are really critical to that too, because we would want whoever the next president is to look at a lot of the programs and the way we have focused those programs on where the greater disparities are, greatest disparities are and maintain those approaches. So, while I can't say that My Brother's Keeper will be an initiative of the next president, I know that we are going to try to make sure we institutionalize change that whatever it's called brings about what we believe to be important terms of making changes. Second, as I mentioned, the President is committed to this work for the rest of his life. He has said that. It's lifetime work for him. So, you know, there's now this My Brother's Keeper Alliance which I refer to and that's a startup and hopefully it will continue to progress rapidly and well. And it may be through that and other efforts that the President will continue his work. And for me personally, I will stay engaged in this work for the rest of my life because it means that much to me as well. And then I'll find some other things to do after I get some rest.
>> Tabitha Bentley: So this question comes to us from Twitter. How does the President respond to criticism that MBK either does not do enough or isn't misguided in scope?
>> Broderick Johnson: Is that a softball question?
>> Tabitha Bentley: I think so.
>> Broderick Johnson: You know, look, I know what difference we are able to make and how the various heads of agencies view their role and addressing these issues. And the fact that it is clearing call that the President means that people really pay a lot of attention to it and feel accountable for making changes within federal policy. And then also, looking at how we've been able to get private sector partners involved in this work to either we're involved or just couldn't figure out how to collaborate with other folks on the ground to make a difference. And the third thing I'd say, really, you know, I grew up in Baltimore which is a pretty tough place in-- when I was growing up, it was tough and it continues to be tough and it certainly seen its chair of unrest overtime. And you go to Baltimore and talk to the young people who are being affected by My Brother's Keeper Baltimore already. And they are more hopeful than people would ever imagine they are. You see it over and over again in cities. So to me, we have to be able to prove that it makes a difference, so don't get me wrong, it's not going to be about happy stories of kids who are small and saying they feel like the President loves them and their country loves them. We want to make sure they believe that's true and prove that's true, but that it's done in tangible ways. So, I'm confident that it's making a big difference and we'll have statistics to show that.
>> Eric Riley: That leads nicely into our next question. So, with MBK, what has been the most significant indicator of measuring its success?
>> Broderick Johnson: I think the 200 plus communities that have agreed to do the work and they're doing it under My Brother's Keeper and they're doing it in a way that is sort of the frame of My Brother's Keeper where they look at specific milestones and they determine that depending on the circumstances in their city, for example in some cities, youth unemployment, summer jobs is a bigger challenge. Then in others, suspension and expulsion of three and four year olds in preschools is a bigger issue in some communities. Yes, in fact, that's true, 4000, three and four year old suspended from preschool a couple years ago across this country, no little 90 pounders who, you know, you just say, "Come on." But there are a lot of complicated issues about that. So, you know, we are able to make sure that communities have the flexibility, of course, to do the work that is important to where they are. But the fact that so many communities have agreed to do this work and are building, sustaining work. It's not work that is like, OK, and this will expire on January 20th, 2017, but have three and four year plans in place already to do the work forward.
>> Tabitha Bentley: So, this question is regards to your position as Cabinet Secretary. Who are the most reward and difficult Cabinet members to work with?
[ Laughter ]
>> Broderick Johnson: Michael, do you want to answer that question for me?
[ Laughter ]
They're all great.
[ Laughter ]
There, it's-- no more sophisticated [inaudible]--
[ Laughter ]
I love my job.
>> Eric Riley: OK. Our next question asked how can cities like Flint, Michigan pursue all the reforms necessary to improve conditions for its residents, environmental improvement, climate-- criminal justice reform, MBK, private sector, economic development?
>> Broderick Johnson: Well, Flint, I know has, of course, real emergency challenges that has to attend to that, of course, have implications too for the health of its children and therefore, the education of all those children as well. Nevertheless, Flint by no means can do by itself what it needs to do across the board and all those areas that you mentioned. I know I can just tell you from perspective of the federal government that as we've done in other cities, not only we will follow exactly this model in Flint, we'll see, but we've been able as I mentioned with regard to Detroit and it's been the case for Baltimore. We have actually sent federal teams led by a particular person in to provide as much federal assistance as possible. So I don't know whether or not that will be the case with Flint, but it's a model as I mentioned, a place-based model of work that needs to be replicated I think by the federal government, whoever is in charge in January of 2017. It has to be comprehensive and it has to be based on a broader view of the needs of Flint as in any other city.
>> Tabitha Bentley: All right, what have been some of the funding mechanisms you used to push local MBK initiatives forward?
>> Broderick Johnson: I'd mention that it's-- communities get together in a developed action plans. And those action plans include not just an approach they're going to take whether you're going to address one of the six milestones, again, whether it's from creating or it's about reentry programs, but also how they're going to go about getting the private sector to invest in collaboration with the public sector in those communities. So, again, for example, Philadelphia being a great example of a city, they got together with a lot of business and the City of Philadelphia, you know, base there or that have strong operations there and came up with guaranteed investments what they would put in to the MBK related work. So, it's through those collaborations. And quite frankly, it's among people who maybe hadn't been talking to each other about getting involved in this work that it's always been about, you know, franchises and where they were going to put their next restaurant or whatever as opposed to what kind of jobs might be available for young people for apprenticeships or whatever else.
>> Eric Riley: Our next question comes from Twitter and it asked, was there any concern the POTUS waited until too late in his administration to launch MBK?
>> Broderick Johnson: No, there's a-- I mean there's a long history of the work that, of course, we've been doing across many, many issues whether having to do with the American economy and jobs having to do with healthcare, having to do with education opportunities and reforms that would lead to what we see in terms of increase graduation rates and attendance in colleges. I think-- Again, what I'd say about MBK is that the President was profoundly affected by what happened in the Trayvon Martin situation and just decided that it was an important opportunity given where the country was and given the circumstances to pull these all together in one particular initiative, but that was not to say that we have been ignoring those issues before because we weren't.
>> Tabitha Bentley: What is the likelihood of MBK remaining a key program? And are there better chances under a democratic president of the United States.
>> Broderick Johnson: So I'm not going to talk about partisan political stuff except to say that we have-- well, this isn't, except to say because this is in fact true and that we have found a lot of support among republicans for My Brother's Keeper particularly in the communities like Indianapolis for example it had a republican mayor who is one of the early mayors to endorse MBK. And we've seen that. In Fresno California for example where a republican mayor did it as well. And we've gotten a lot of expressions for support. Not necessarily support for a new appropriation that would fund MBK related programs, but again, that funding can come through a variety of other things around Department of Education funding and the like. But, we've seen tremendous amount of support from republicans for MBK and religious conservatives as well. It's one of the, you know, it's viewed as one of the least partisan things that we've developed by those who wanted-- do what we do as partisan, which is not the case.
>> Eric Riley: All right, our next question asked, how is the MBK Task Force encouraging cities that haven't joined especially those with high percentage of boys and young men of color to declare itself an MBK city?
>> Broderick Johnson: So the good news is I don't think there are any of those left in terms of large and medium size cities. There are many, there are still some. And, you know, let's honestly keeping up with the 200 that are already MBK communities and making sure that all those communities are doing their work effectively as a challenge emission force. So we're really focused on that. Communities at-- I think this is something that has to be driven by the local communities largely though, right? And that community leaders and folks have to decide that they want to become an MBK community or what kind of MBK community they want to become. They need to make those determinations really at a local level.
>> Tabitha Bentley: How does MBK talk with boys on the ground about the planning and implementation of MBK? Are there leadership roles for black and brown males youth in the decision making?
>> Broderick Johnson: So, it is mandated so to speak under the kind of MBK construct that your action plan address how you make sure locally that you have young people involved in the planning of the work. That's one thing that goes really the quality of the MBK plan. So, that's packed in to what communities should do. Second though, I've gone around probably to two dozen MBK communities over the past year and always insist that the listening session so to speak or some that they have include young people and both the planning, but also in terms of who I can speak to to solicit their ideas. And I can't tell you how many times I've gone back to the White House having-- had a young person say, "Tell President Obama I said such and such." And if I can figure out a way to tell him right away what they said, sometimes that opportunity presents itself. But I remember ones, the President I had-- it's probably about a year after we'd started MBK and the Wall Street Journal had written some positive about MBK and Washtenaw opposed that as well. And I was feeling pretty happy about that sort of going to, you know, having republican support particularly in the case of Wall Street Journal. And the President asked me not long after that-- those editorials run, "How are we doing with MBK?" And I was like, "Well, we got this great editorial from the Wall Street Journal and such and such." And he kind of shut me off and said, "I want to know what the young people think about the work that we're putting into it." And he meant that because he asks when he's out on the road all the time.
>> Eric Riley: How do you think that My Brother's Keeper works to address issues that face young men of color without the erasure of problems that young women of color may face?
>> Broderick Johnson: And one of the things that I think we need to highlight more and should have highlighted better at the beginning of MBK frank-- quite frankly is that the federal government cannot design programs that are raised or gender exclusive. There's the US constitution first of all and then there's just fairness, right? So, while we have had, of course, an emphasis on boys and young men of color because of-- as President mentioned in his own voice, some of these disparities that really trouble the society or especially the case with them. Everything we've designed around MBK is gender or race neutral, it has to be, all right? But if you're attacking issues where the disparity is the greatest, then just as a matter of fact, it's going to have a greater impact on boys and young men of color if that's where you're focusing on the disparity. So, by no way is what we're doing under MBK especially from a federal task force work exclusive of helping girls and even helping all children quite frankly.
>> Tabitha Bentley: So I believe this is going to be our last question.
>> Broderick Johnson: Oh.
>> Tabitha Bentley: And it's a two-part question, so that's OK.
>> Broderick Johnson: I should shut up. You have a one part question, no, no. Sorry.
>> Tabitha Bentley: What is your most rewarding experience, well, at the University of Michigan as a student? And also, what experiences helped prepare you for your current role with MBK?
>> Broderick Johnson: So, can I say something as sort of frivolous, I was going to see-- what's his name? See, my memory is fading too much now too. So there's one Saturday when-- it was early in the semester when you don't have to study as hard as you'd have to later in the semester and going to see Michigan-Notre Dame game, right? That was a great thing and then going to a jazz concern that night. And it's terrible because the name of that jazz musician, he's a trumpeter, come on here, somebody help me.
[ Inaudible Remark ]
His piece-- he's deceased now.
[ Inaudible Remark ]
Yes. Miles Davis, thank you very much. That was just a trick question. I knew what it was.
[ Laughter ]
And just starting my second year law school and that was like the most fun weekend I had when I was at school. I think just the most rewarding thing was really not as a student, but it's been really quite frankly as an alum and some of the things that I mentioned about my own father and my own children and my mom and stuff because, you know, this legacy-- this family legacy is already incredibly important. They really are and they provide tremendous opportunities, but they also provides you with opportunities that are priceless, experiences that are priceless. And so, I'm really so drawn to that. I think in terms of my job now and what prepared me forward from having been in school here is just the rigor of the studies here at the law school And also the sense that, you know, you should if you're willing enable commit yourself to do public service. And for me, I've been able to do public service and also private law firm and other work. But just a commitment to public service that I'm left here with since I needed to go and make a difference and give back. It's all very true. Good way to end this.
>> Thank you--
[ Applause ]
>> Dean Susan Collins: So, my thanks, of course, to our special guest. I'd also like to thank all of you for joining us for all of your questions. I hope you will stay for continuing the conversation at a reception out in our Great Hall. And I hope you'll consider coming back next Monday. We'll be hosting US Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez. And so, hope to see many of you back--
>> Broderick Johnson: He's one of my favorite.
>> Dean Susan Collins: Yeah.
[ Laughter ]
>> Broderick Johnson: Tell him that, please. Tell him that. He's one of my favorite.
>> Dean Susan Collins: We will.
>> Broderick Johnson: Tell him.
>> Dean Susan Collins: And so, just a final thank you for your thoughts, your perspective, all of your experiences, we've learned a lot.
>> Broderick Johnson: Thank you.
>> Dean Susan Collins: Thank you very much.
[ Applause ]