March 7, 2015

Youth engagement programs highlighted during presidential visit

Friday’s visit by President Barack Obama was marked by the 50th anniversary of the march on Edmund Pettus Bridge. For many leaders, it was important to acknowledge the legacy of the event and the impact of youth taking action to make the nation more progressive.

“We cannot get done what needs to be done in this country without the strength of youth,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn.

Obama has advocated for empowering youth, particularly young minority men, through education and service and has called on state and local leaders to promote those efforts in their own policies.

“[Obama’s visit] is validating a lot of good work that’s happening here in this city,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin regarding the expansion of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative throughout the city. “A number of his different initiatives we’ve taken the lead and worked hard to make them reality.”

Benjamin said Obama was excited about the city’s efforts to develop programs out of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which is designed to help young men, particularly black and Hispanic boys, overcome difficulties to success.

“We’re in the vanguard,” Benjamin said. “When it comes to My Brother’s Keeper, Columbia, S.C., is the tip of the spear. We’re doing great things.”

Benjamin, along with Clyburn and Gov. Nikki Haley, greeted Obama as he arrived in Columbia at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport around Friday morning.

Obama held a meet-and-greet at Benedict College with several elected officials. including state Reps. Bakari Sellers, Todd Rutherford and Richland One Commissioner Aaron Bishop.

Benjamin said the president did not talk about the problems at South Carolina State University but said both Haley and Clyburn are committed to the success of the university.

Obama and Clyburn plans to visit Selma, Alabama, on Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march.

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