President Barack Obama made it clear today that he is counting on nonprofit organizations to advance education, training and health care in communities across the nation, and called on the private sector to invest in these and other local solutions.
"Ultimately, the best solutions don't come from the top down-not from Washington," the president said, addressing a group of foundation heads, philanthropists and others at the White House. "They come from the bottom up in each and every one of our communities."
With admiration evident in his voice, the president smiled and thanked the guests, who filled the crowded East Room, for the long hours they have committed to creating community solutions.
Obama used the occasion to spotlight several organizations that began in local communities and have stayed there to help those residents.
HopeLab, a non-profit based in California that uses technology to improve young people's health and quality of life, was one of the programs highlighted today.
Twelve-year-old Richard Ross spoke enthusiastically about one HopeLab product designed to combat childhood obesity: gDitty. The device monitors young people's movement and offers them rewards, like free MP3s, for participating in physical activities.
Another was Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) and its president Geoff Canada. HCZ, which Obama referred to repeatedly on the campaign trail as an exemplary program, strives to create community environments that surround children with support, and stresses the importance of a college education. The project includes in-school, after-school, health, social-service and community-building programs.
"In the end, we have to make sure that children don't fall through the cracks anywhere in our community," Canada said.
Those sentiments were echoed by the Vanessa Nunez, a formerly struggling youth whose participation in the Genesys Works program not only got her into college but also gave her a better shot at life. The Houston-based Genesys Works program provides high school students with technical training and finds them employment.
Bonnie CLAC, a program that helps low-income individuals purchase fuel-efficient and affordable cars, was also highlighted at the event.
In addition to calling on corporations, foundations and individuals to partner with the government in supporting these programs, the president asked Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and her team, to search the nation for the "hidden gems" of innovative solutions that will be most effective in improving communities.