Why Obama Is First President to Admit, 'I Got High'

It's part of his first tangible move as president to help young black men
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2014 11:48 AM CST
President Obama speaks with Christian Champagne, 18, a senior at Hyde Park Career Academy in Chicago, who introduced him.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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(Newser) – In announcing his My Brother's Keeper initiative yesterday to help the nation's young black men, President Obama became the first president to publicly utter the phrase, "I got high," notes an analysis in the Washington Post. Why? Obama wanted to remind the teens behind him at the podium that "that he was once like them," write Zachary Goldfarb and Scott Wilson. It's a shift for the president, who once shied away from this demographic. He's signalling through this public-private initiative—the idea is to establish programs specifically to help black and Hispanic young men—that the subject is going to be a focus of his life's work even after the presidency ends.

Obama will surely take flak from some critics for creating a program so tailored to a particular group of minorities and from other critics for not doing it earlier, writes Eugene Robinson in the Post. But Robinson is on board. "My Brother’s Keeper isn’t a solution," he writes. "But it’s a start." Less optimistic is another African-American writer, Jamelle Bouie in the Daily Beast. The program may be "worthwhile," but it's not nearly enough. "If these young men are coming from neighborhoods that are poor, segregated, and violent, it’s because—for most of the 20th century—it was the policy of the United States to make them that way." Until that changes, until Americans en masse cause it to change, not much else matters. "I want to be optimistic, but given America’s steadfast refusal to accept the reality of its racist past, I don’t think I’ll wait for that train to come."

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