Saturday, April 04, 2009

Council of Urban Professionals gala with Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and MA Gov. Deval Patrick

Other than sending out the occasional email, I've been totally out of commission this year vis-a-vis school reform due to the crazy markets and equally crazy idea to write a book (More Mortgage Meltdown: 6 Ways to Profit in These Bad Times was sent to the printer yesterday; the first copy should be in my hands in less than three weeks and Amazon says they'll ship it on May 11th -- you can check it out and pre-order it at:  As with Work Hard. Be Nice., if you can't afford $18.45 but want to read it, just email me and I'll send you a free copy.)
But after the last three days, I'M BACK!  (To borrow Obama's favorite campaign rallying cry: Fired up!  Ready to go!)
My rejuvenation started on Thursday night at the annual gala for the Council of Urban Professionals (, which honored two people are the forefront (in very different ways, sadly -- more on this below) of education reform in the U.S.: MA Gov. Deval Patrick and Michelle Rhee, who was introduced by Joel Klein. 
CUP is a networking and advocacy organization for young professionals and entrepreneurs in NYC (quick plug: any person in NYC who meets this profile who is not a member of CUP is making a HUGE mistake; an Associate Membership only costs $250/year and just the value of the networking is 100x that amount).  I'm one of the founding board members of CUP and chair the education committee.
In introducing Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein was at his best ever (and I've seen him speak dozens of times).  He said he'd never seen such a large group of highly successful people of color, which inspired him -- but also underscored how far we have to go.  He said it took our nation 165 years to declare in 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education (, that it was illegal to send black children to different schools than white children -- yet here we are today, 55 years later, and the horrifying reality is that the color of your skin, the wealth of your family and your zip code in almost all cases determine that quality of the school that you will attend.  With 55 years already passed, he asked how much longer our nation would allow this shameful disgrace to continue and called on CUP members to join the fight to bring about change.  VERY powerful stuff.
He then turned to introducting Michelle and dismissed those who criticize her for not being nice enough and agreeable enough.  She's not willing to go along to get along because the children of Washington DC can't wait any longer.  The average poor black child in DC enters kindergarten at about the same level as the average poor black child in NYC -- but by the 4th grade, the DC children are TWO YEARS BEHIND their NYC counterparts!  (You could hear the gasp in the room)
Michelle was brilliant and inspiring as well.  The statistics she cited brought more gasps: only 9% of DC 9th graders will ever graduate from college; 92% of 4th graders are reading below grade level and 88% are below grade level in math.
Joel and Michelle are heros of mine.  Other than perhaps Obama, they have the two toughest jobs in America, are making enormous personal sacrifices and are knocking the cover off the ball (albeit in a frustrating three steps forward, two steps back manner).

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