On Tuesday, January 28th, 2014, President Barack Obama will outline his vision for the nation, and indications are he will focus more on “Ladders of Opportunity” than “income inequality.” That’s smart for the President, and good news for all of us. Because the only way we are going to change income inequality, in a vibrant democracy rooted in free enterprise and capitalism, is by expanding the bowl that opportunity gets served in.
Let me be clear, income and wealth inequality is an enormous problem – maybe the problem of this generation. When the world’s wealthiest 85 people own more than 3.5 billion people on the planet, something is certainly wrong in the world. The problem is not so much ‘the problem,' per se, but what we collectively choose to do about it. Looks like the President is focused on doing his part. And now, we must all do ours.
The good news is, this problem is not as hard or overwhelming as it sounds. Let’s start with our kids.
There are 100,000 public school houses in America, and Jim Clifton (chairman and CEO of Gallup) and I believe that the 30 million young people in grades 5-12 in our public schools represent “the bench strength for the playoff games of the rest of our lives.” They literally are our future (employees, customers, consumers, owners, entrepreneurs — leaders). Literally.
If we don’t solve this crisis, with our youth, then in 10 years' time we will be the nation that used to run the world. Let me give you some of the numbers.
30% of all kids in the U.S. are dropping out of high school. Not black kids, or Latino kids, or Asian kids, or poor kids. I am talking about our kids. 30% of all kids, including solid middle and upper class kids, are dropping out of high school in the richest country in the world. What the…
An estimated 30-40% of all kids are dropping out of high-school in urban communities across America.
An estimated 70% — yes, 70% — of Black young men are dropping out of high schoolin America. This number is a death sentence for Black families if we don’t arrest it, and quick.
Note to Black parents: who precisely is going to marry your daughter? No job, no high-school diploma, no ownership, no voting (you tend to not bother voting, when you don’t have a stake in the thing you are voting about), and little to no hope. Nope — not marrying my daughter, is my response. What about you? This is a genuine cultural crisis for Black America, but these overall numbers are a problem for the nation, not a race.
An estimated 70% of the prison population doesn’t have a high-school diploma, and a troubling number of young people with a parent in prison, end up in prison. And then you have public policy. An alarming number of U.S. governors have reported that they can tell you by 3rd grade reading and math scores, how many prisons to build. Sound like a problem to you? It’s not — it’s a full blown crisis.