Barack Obama was a Terrible Thing to Waste

Remember the United Negro College Fund ads

A mind is a terrible thing to  waste”? 

These ads presumed our kids were being educated well enough to go to college; that graduates were not merely literate, but better than literate. Curious. Excited about learning. Educated broadly enough to have identified a line of work they wanted to pursue, such as chemistry or medicine or business or the arts or any one of a thousand paths any high school graduate might choose.

The latest news about educational attainment in two of Barack Obama’s hometowns, Washington D.C. and Chicago, is alarming.

From The Federalist:

…Large urban school districts are failing in ways that should be a national emergency. Washington, D.C., high schools have a 60 percent chronic absenteeism and a 47 percent truancy rate. (You read that correctly.) In 53 Illinois schools, not one student can do math at grade level, and there are reportedly 30 where no one can read at grade level. If Democrats cared about kids, they would be moving heaven and earth right now to fix these schools. They don’t care about educating kids, but Democrats and their union funders will fight a national political battle to make sure your kids can access pornography in schools.

“Not one.” NO ONE??? This, in an environment where it is safe to assume everything imaginable was done to lower the "pass" threshold, cook the books, skew the results, because that’s what unchecked, unchallenged, well-funded institutions with monolithic power do, and that’s what these teachers’s unions have in these two cities.

The United Negro College Fund has been in running these ads for over forty years but the United Negro College Fund might need a brother organization by now: the United Negro K-12 Literacy Fund. Hmmm… Brother… “Brother”? You know who has, quite literally, a “brother” organization? Barack Obama! My Brother’s Keeper, a non-profit which has done… what exactly? We’ll get back to that, but back to the breakdown in urban education.

It wasn’t always like this. The always wonderful Thomas Sowell, who regularly reminds us that the black family survived Democrat-run slavery but could not survive Democrats’ Great Society, tells us:

Back in 1899, in Washington, D. C., there were four academic public high schools-- one black and three white.  In standardized tests given that year, students in the black high school averaged higher test scores than students in two of the three white high schools.

Mind you, this is just a couple of generations (at most) after Emancipation. The children attaining these results had parents and/or grandparents who either were slaves or remembered slavery very, very well.

What happened? Well, I can tell you what didn’t happen that may have helped save at least one mind, if not more: Barack Obama.

He was very quick to say “if it saves just one life” when talking about taking away our Constitutional right to guns, but that standard seems inapplicable in other, shall we say, more politically fraught arenas, like the importance of giving children a primal benefit they have a right to: an ever-present father. As America’s first black president, he had a unique opportunity to help in this area which is in desperate need of help: 72% of black babies are born to unmarried mothers. “This issue entered the public consciousness in 1965, when a now famous government report by future senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan described a ‘tangle of pathology' among blacks that fed a (then) 24 percent black ‘illegitimacy’ rate.” An almost perfect mathematical reversal in the wake of “good” intentions. Again, as Thomas Sowell says, the black family survived slavery, but not big government.

So what could Barack Obama have done that didn’t involve a big government program? Easy answer, and it should have come easily to a narcissist like him: just talk constantly about what a great role model he is.  That’s all he had to do. Talk about himself and how great he is - in a very specific Brookings Institution (below) kind of way. At every possible opportunity.

Of all that came out of his presidency, most of it poisonously bad, the one thing he could have done, and should have done, and was the greatest missed opportunity imaginable, and in my opinion, a honest-to-God, very real tragedy, was to make a much bigger deal of his status as a married father of black children. He should have been constantly driving home the point that the way to succeed in life is to do what Brookings found — which is exactly what he did: stay in school, get a full-time job, get married after 21, and before you have a baby. In that order. Everyone, regardless of demographics, has a 98% chance of avoiding poverty if you do that, and a 74% chance of being in the middle class. 

Does “My Brother’s Keeper” mean anything? Or nah? A check on their “News” page on March 16, 2024 showed their last news item was dated April 11, 2023. Gosh, kind of a lot’s happened since then, huh? Seems they’re not very busy. Too bad. Chicago led the nation in 2023 — again — in the number of homicides. Hey, if you’re dead, you’re not failing at school, right?

What a sad state of affairs, truly.

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I’m thinking if a kid is sitting at the library doing his history homework, he’s less likely to be getting shot or doing the shooting. And chances are, a kid sitting at the library doing his history homework probably has a mother and or father on the scene who cares about whether or not he actually does his homework. Something Barack & Michelle Obama could have been pro-active, relentless, even noisy role models for, had they simply chosen to be, during or after their time in the White House.  You don’t even have to agree with them. On anything. Even how they raised their kids (super expensive private schools, of course). Simply using their enormous stage to make being married parents cool again would have been enough. Enough to save who knows how many minds from terrible waste.

But what we’ve seen from them hardly qualifies as actually caring about people who look like them. What we’ve seen a lot of since they left is what we saw a lot of while they were at 1600 Penn.: glamorous vacations & insufferable pontificating about how very, very disappointed they are in all of us.

We must do better. Yes we must, Barack. We’re so very, very sorry.

We are. So very, very sorry indeed that you, yes, you, didn’t use the biggest stage imaginable to preach the biggest, most urgently needed message imaginable: honor yourself, honor your commitments, and be good, honorable men other young men can look up to and emulate.

That’s the tragedy of it, the waste, the absolute waste of his presidency and post-presidential life. There’s still time to save his legacy and “do the right thing,” as his Martha’s Vineyard friend Spike Lee famously said in his movie of the same name. I hope he does. Maybe over cocktails at his palatial island home this August they can talk about it. Then act. Meaningfully.

The black lives in his Chicago and D.C. hometowns either matter or they don’t.

Image: Pixabay / Pixabay License

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