WASHINGTON (AP) — Basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson will help lead a White House push to get more Americans involved in reversing underachievement among young minority men, President Barack Obama said Friday.
Johnson, along with Joe Echevarria, chief executive of accounting and consulting firm Deloitte LLP, will help lead an “external push to get more folks on board,” Obama said as he met with stakeholders in his “My Brother’s Keeper” program.
The president initiated the program in February to help try to reverse some of the challenges facing black, Hispanic and Native American boys and young men. Obama discussed an initial “My Brother’s Keeper” progress report with his Cabinet on Thursday and met with members of the task force on Friday.
Obama said he was pleased with the task force’s progress so far, and the final goal will be to “really put in place not only an all-hands-on-deck effort on the federal level, but a partnership with the private sector so that we can see some concrete outcomes.”
Johnson was a Hall of Fame player in college and with the Los Angeles Lakers. Since retiring from basketball, he has been successful in business, investing in movie theaters, a production company and restaurants. He has also been an activist in the fight against HIV after being diagnosed with the virus in 1991.
Echevarria worked with Obama on the White House Forum on Women and Economy in 2012. He has served on the Corporate Advisory Board of the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting, which named him Executive of the Year in 2007, and chairs the University of Miami’s business school board of overseers.
Obama unveiled the “My Brother’s Keeper” program at the White House in February. Under the initiative, businesses, foundations and community groups coordinate investments to come up with or support programs that help keep young people out of the criminal justice system and improve their access to higher education.
Several foundations pledged at least $200 million over five years to promote that goal.
Obama also signed a presidential memorandum creating a government-wide task force to evaluate the effectiveness of various approaches so that federal and local governments, community groups and businesses will have best practices to follow.
The progress report noted several areas that the initiative should focus on, including mentorships, getting better data on minority boys, making sure young boys enter schools ready to learn, reducing violence and reforming the juvenile justice system.
“This report really reflects the beginning of the work that we’re undertaking and we’re very much looking forward to seeing where it leads,” said Cecilia Munoz, White House director of domestic policy, on Thursday.