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Essay: The Eloquence of Common Purpose

Win McNamee
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U.S. President Barack Obama signs an executive memorandum following remarks on the My Brother's Keeper Initiative as young men who participate in the 'Becoming A Man' program in Chicago watch on in the East Room of the White House February 27, 2014.

One of the longstanding issues that advocates for both private and public schools agree on is the need for more and better role models for disadvantaged kids in Milwaukee.  It’s an issue about which Lake Effect essayist Mark Siegrist has some optimism:

Civic discourse by nature is often contentious.

Passionate debate doesn’t necessarily inspire profound expression.

We are an opinionated society.

From talk radio.

To the political arena.

Or amid public discussion on the merits of building a new arena.

A reoccurring issue in Milwaukee.

But on a recent afternoon a notable group of leaders proved how eloquence can evolve from common purpose.

Inspire a razor sharp focus on a vital issue.

It happened recently under the roof of the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The blueprint had nothing to do with brick and mortar.

And a lot to do with building young lives.

A Milwaukee Mentoring Forum.

Hosted by the Milwaukee Bucks.

In partnership with local government, MPS Schools, and numerous social enterprises.

A call to action and public endorsement of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

The heart of which involves the recruitment of 25,000 new mentors across the country.

With a special focus on guiding the lives of young men of color.

Narrowing the social gap in poverty, incarceration, education, and career development.

During the discussion Mayor Tom Barrett alludes to the value of helping others without expecting anything in return.

In contrast he says to those who climb the career ladder on the backs of others.

Former Milwaukee Bucks great Bob Lanier says even the President had a lot of help growing up.

Lanier talks about the importance of mentoring kids early, teaching respect, good choices, and setting goals.

MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver sets a goal of her own, pairing a mentor with every one of her students.

Bucks President Peter Feigin plays off a popular theme by expressing his desire for the franchise to become a leader of such a nurturing village.

One by one the notables express their support and solidarity with the cause.

White House Cabinet Secretary and Washington veteran Broderick Johnson offers  this intriguing perspective.

He says a mentor can be an “improbable figure” in one’s life.

He jokingly adds that even Republicans have been instrumental in his career choices.

Amy Chionchio is the President & CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee.

She sums it up this way.

When it comes to mentoring a young person, “It doesn’t take a lot of money, it just takes a lot of heart.”

Sometimes a common purpose really can bring out the best in us.

In our manner of speech.

And collaboration.

Especially when it involves tapping into the potential of one young life at a time.

Lake Effect essayist Mark Siegrist is a freelance public television producer in Milwaukee.

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