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Public Statements

Education and Literacy

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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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.

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.

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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.

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