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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Too many young African American and Hispanic men cannot read

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Clarke) for 5 minutes.
   Mr. CLARKE of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I am here, along with my good friend and colleague, the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Scott), to address a national crisis that's facing us today.
   Too many of our young African American and Hispanic men cannot read. They're dropping out of school and they're ending up in prison. Without the skills to be able to get a job, many of these young men may lose hope and they resort to crime.

   I personally understand, to a certain degree, what these young men are going through. I lost hope myself in my early twenties.
   Raised as a single child, my parents were deceased by the time I was 19. I dropped out of school, ended up being unemployed, and resorted to food stamps. My food stamps were ultimately cut off. At that time, I felt I would never make it in life, and I gave up.
   Now, several factors intervened to help save me. One was my godmother, Octavia Lyons. She wasn't a college graduate and she wasn't a professional woman. She was a domestic cleaning lady like my mother, and she was raised and educated in segregated Mobile, Alabama. She understood the value of working and the value of education, and she demanded that I do something with my life.
[Time: 10:30]
   The other factor that motivated me directly to go to school, again, was the fact that I was able to go to the Detroit Public Library. I caught the bus. And I started reading books on visual artists, and it inspired me to go back to school to study fine arts again. But the point is, I had the ability to read--and reading helped save my life.
   I want to now yield to my good friend, Representative Scott, the gentleman from South Carolina.
   Mr. SCOTT of South Carolina. Thank you, Congressman Clarke.
   Let me just thank Mr. Clarke for focusing on the issue of education and, specifically, the issue of literacy. I will say that as a kid growing up in a single-parent household myself, living in poverty, I did not value education as a youngster. And so by the time I was in high school, I was flunking out. I failed the ninth grade. I failed world geography, civics, Spanish, and English. When you fail Spanish and English, they don't consider you bilingual. They may call you ``bi-ignorant.''
   And that's where I found myself, because I had lost hope in life. I had a mother who believed strongly in the power of education. And because of her discipline, her involvement, and her focus, I found the path back towards prosperity, which started with education. And as chairman of the county council a few years ago, I recognized that the incarcerated population of Charleston County was highly represented by young people, mostly men, who were functionally illiterate, coming from single-parent households and living in poverty, as I did.
   So the value of education cannot be overemphasized enough, and the necessity of public-private partnerships to address this issue is an absolute necessity because our Nation faces a crisis.
   Mr. CLARKE of Michigan. Thank you, Representative Scott.
   To the American people, we want to show that even though this Congress many times is divided based on ideology and party, he and I--I'm one of the most liberal Members of this House and my friend, the gentleman from South Carolina, is one of the most conservative--both agree we've got to address this national crisis. We've got to save the lives of our young black and Hispanic men. And by doing so, we're going to help strengthen our economy and help create jobs. This is a national call to action for all of us in government, schools, libraries, business, and our charities and our families, to all work together to help educate our young men on the value of reading and to teach them to read.
   I yield to my friend from South Carolina.
   Mr. SCOTT of South Carolina. Mr. Clarke, I would say that without any question the issue of education is not an African American issue; it's not an Hispanic issue. It is an American issue. It is an American tradition that for all access in this Nation, the power of freedom comes from the power of education. And we stand here together as one of the more conservative Members of the House and certainly one of the more liberal Members of the House focusing on the same problem. We may not even agree on all the paths to solving this problem, but we can agree on the necessity of addressing the issue of literacy. And if we can work together finding paths for the American people to focus their attention, finding paths for Congress to focus our attention, we find paths to the solution.
   Mr. CLARKE of Michigan. I agree, my brother. I'm going to work with you on this.
   Mr. SCOTT of South Carolina. Thank you, Mr. Clarke.
   Mr. CLARKE of Michigan. Thank you. 


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