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Congresswoman Karen Bass

Representing the 37th District of California

Los Angeles Times: On Obama's private L.A. schedule: a meeting with Father Boyle

July 24, 2014
In The News

President Obama met privately with Father Gregory Boyle of Los Angeles' Homeboy Industries and four former gang members Thursday as part of the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative aimed at lifting African American and Latino youths.

“He talked about how he had a similar background with a single mother. She gave birth when she was 18. And he said he had gotten into trouble but was good at not getting caught,” said Boyle in an interview, adding that the meet-and-greet lasted about 10 minutes and each young man got a handshake and a picture with the president.

“The homies just loved him. Afterward they were saying, 'He’s one of us.' ”

Homeboy Industries is a much-praised Los Angeles-based program that helps former gang members turn their lives around, and Boyle is a celebrated and deeply respected community leader. The meeting, which took place after Obama’s speech at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, was also attended by Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles).

In their private meeting with the president, the young men associated with Homeboy Industries were said to be enthralled by the encounter.

“Before we were on the way, they were saying not even rappers get to meet with the president of the United States,” Boyle said. “Not even Lil Wayne – I don’t know who that is – not even Lil Wayne gets to meet with the president of the United States.”

Boyle said he relayed that story to Jarrett, who responded, “That’s exactly right. There’s a lesson for the day: Stay in school, do good, and you don’t need to be a rapper to meet the president of the United States.”

Obama told Boyle that he admired the work of Homeboy Industries, Boyle said.

“He said, ‘We support your programs and want to continue to make sure they thrive,’ ” Boyle said. “As he left the room, he said, ‘I’ve got to get back to Washington. I’ve got work to do. Just remember, work always continues, so keep at it.… No shortcuts. The work keeps going.’ ”

This article was originally published in the Los Angeles Times.