President Barack Obama continued a presidential tradition on Monday afternoon, September 22, 2014 by signing America’s Promise Summit Declaration at the Oval Office in the White House. The signing was a bipartisan affair with Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who served under George W. Bush in attendence. Powell was the founder of the organization, while his wife Alma presently serves as the chair of America’s Promise Summit Alliance also attended the event.
Obama’s six predecessors have all signed the declaration which aims at providing youth with “healthy starts and healthy futures; effective education that builds marketable skills; and ultimately, opportunities to serve others.” The initiative had it inaugural summit in 1997 and was attended and the declaration signed by then President Bill Clinton and former presidents George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, and Nancy Reagan, who signed on ailing President Ronald Reagan’s behalf.
In his short remarks, President Obama discussed the main purpose of the declaration, saying “The concept is simple — that our greatest asset are our children. And it is absolutely critical for us as a nation to continually find ways in which we can make sure that they are safe; that they are getting the kind of education they need to succeed in the 21st century; that they’re healthy; that they are on the track not only to be successful but also to be good citizens.”
Obama listed the other initiatives his administration he is doing to help America’s youth including Race to the Top, initiatives through the Department of Education including college affordability, job training, emphasizing STEM subjects, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and career skills in the high school curriculum, and My Brother’s Keeper, a program aiming at helping black youth. Obama expressed those programs are “making sure that every young person in America gets a chance at success.”
Among those also watching President Obama sign the declaration were “Gregg Petersmeyer, the Vice-Chair of the organization, John Gomperts who serves as the President and CEO, Laysha Ward, President of Community Relations and the Target Foundation, Former Senator Harris Wofford, Kathy Payne, the Director for Education Leadership at State Farm, and Deon Jones, who works as the Special Project Assistant to the President for ‘Be the Change.’”
President Barack Obama praised; “The companies and organizations and non-for-profits that are represented behind me, under Alma’s leadership, have contributed in so many ways.” The president also commended the other organizations that participate in the program, stating; “But this is just a small sampling of the hundreds of organizations around the country that are doing great work every single day and are learning from each other, and creating a network of concern and nurturing for our children in every walk of life.”
President Obama and his administration has been involved with the alliance since 2010, when Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan launched the GradNation campaign aimed at boosting high school graduation rates by 2020 to 90 percent, with each high school graduating 80 percent of their students.
- Remarks by President Barack Obama at the Signing of America’s Promise Summit Declaration, September 22, 2014.
- Copy of America’s Promise Summit Declaration signed by President Obama, September 22, 2014
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.