The Corner


From Mike Rowe to Deion Sanders, Signs That America’s Problems Are Fixable

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

From Mike Rowe to Deion Sanders, Signs That America’s Problems Are Fixable

A few more highlights from the Koch network winter meeting in Indian Wells, California…

Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs and Somebody’s Gotta Do It was there discussing MikeRoweWorks Foundation, his charity that has granted more than $3 million in scholarships to students with a work ethic to attend trade schools. (He joked that he initially didn’t want to name it after himself, and named it “MicroWorks,” but Bill Gates complained.)

Rowe offered his familiar but no less accurate assessment that society will continue to have a skills gap as long as any job that involves working with your hands is seen as second-class or morally inferior to white-collar work.

“We right now have 5.8 million jobs that exist that nobody can fill right now,” Mike Rowe told the assembled Koch donors. “About 75 percent do not require four year degree. We have in our heads this idea that the best path for everybody is a four-year degree. We have ‘higher education’ and — we’re not crass enough to call it ‘lower’ education — we’ll call it “alternative” education. Implicit in the language that we choose is the judgment and the ultimate outcome. It’s a reflection of the kinds of jobs we’ve rewarded, and the perception that these jobs are vocational consolation prizes. We’ve absolutely created a hierarchy in work.”

Monday morning brought a presentation about the Urban Specialists program in Dallas, run by Pastor Omar Jahwar with some high profile help from Deion Sanders, the only man to play in both the World Series and a Super Bowl, and the only man to score a touchdown in the NFL and hit a home run in Major League Baseball in the same week.

Urban Specialists has connected with the lives of more than 2,000 young people in the Dallas area, and a related athletic program has helped 12,000 kids. They’ve funded scholarships, both athletic and academic, youth mentoring, and perhaps most intriguingly, using former gang members to reach out to at-risk kids.

“Nobody knows how to keep a kid out of a gang better than the people who ran in gangs themselves,” said Antong Lucky, one of the “ambassadors” of Urban Specialists.

“We’re a full service… I don’t even know what to call us,” Sanders said. “We’re out there touching the whole family. Single mothers — 70 percent of our kids are living in a single parent home. We’ll reach out to the dad, saying, ‘you may not be able to see eye to eye with your child’s mother, but can you see your child face to face?’”

Programs like these are the best of America – driven, big-hearted, smart people looking at the worst problems in their communities and figuring out how to tackle them effectively and measurable results with optimism and good cheer. You’ll probably notice the news and political discourse hasn’t made you feel optimistic lately. It wasn’t just the desert landscape beyond the golf courses that made me feel like I was on Mars in the past few days.

At the Koch summit, yes, there was political talk, but a lot of the meeting was focused on spotlighting excellent charitable and nonprofit programs that had demonstrated tangible results in their communities. The political talk was less about who’s up and who’s down, and what’s actually going to get done in the coming two years. Koch donors want to hear about the policies, and they want the details. The Koch crowd isn’t afraid to offer a tough pushback against a traditional ally when he strays – let’s just say someone whose name rhymes with “Schmaul Schryan,” not in attendance, was accused of forgetting his free-market principles with the border adjustment tax idea – and the Koch network has made it pretty clear they’re completely willing to work with a Democrat or left-leaning group if they think it will help advance one of their priorities. It’s not bipartisanship or non-partisanship, it’s almost anti-partisanship. Just find somebody who shares one of your goals and get it done. Today’s ally might be tomorrow’s foe and vice versa, and just take it as it comes.

Checking into the news or my Twitter feed, the rest of the world had gone mad over Trump’s executive orders, with airports turning into chaos.


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