When it comes to poverty, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is at the forefront. He’s credited with visiting some of the most economically distressed parts of the country, especially low-income minority neighborhoods, more than members of the Congressional Black Caucus, according to urban activists. The journey in combating poverty in America is documented in OpportunityLives’ Comeback series, which is entering its second season. All of their videos can be seen on YouTube.
The most recent episode centers on Dallas, which is quite the apposite segment given that the city needs community unity and support after the horrific assault on law enforcement on July 7 that left five police officers dead. The shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, said he was angry about the recent string of police shootings against black Americans, and that he wanted to kill white police officers. An explosive device delivered by one of the police department’s robots later killed Johnson.
As the city reels from the tragedy, there’s the story of Antong Lucky and Pastor Omar Jahwar. These are the troops on the front lines, as they know what it’s like to grow up in these neighborhoods. Lucky started the Dallas chapter of the Bloods, went to jail, and met Pastor Jahwar after serving his sentence. Jahwar told him that what he wants to work with him on won’t make him rich, but it would increase his wealth in people and community relations. The community needs a hero said Jahwar to Lucky who renounced his gangster ways immediately. He has worked with inner-city youth ever since.
In the video you see the challenges facing the city’s residents. Former CEO of Trammell Crow Don Williams noted that the city has the third highest adult poverty rate in the country. It also has the No.1 child poverty rate in the county as well. Michael Hinojosa, superintendent for the Dallas Independent School District, said 90 percent of his students come from economically disadvantaged communities. To fight this, you need to build a connection with the neighborhoods, and these folks know who is in it to do good—and who is there just to get media attention and further their own ulterior agendas.
Ryan is seen meeting with these frontline soldiers, saying that he wants to see a competition of ideas because no good will come from policy solely discussed in the ivory towers. The speaker is captured saying we need to not only deal with the symptoms of poverty, but also break the backbone of it. Other members of the community who had drifted into criminality shared their stories about their life of crime, or economic hardship—and how they overcame it. It’s the openness and the non-condescending manner that allows these connections to be made. These kids growing up listening to these urban specialists’ stories allows them to see these folks are mentors and friends, and not adversarial characters.
The video does note that there are many parasitic elements within urban culture, feeding off the dreams and hopes of its residents. That’s why this army of urban specialists in Dallas is taking the offensive—and it doesn’t look like they’re giving up anytime soon.
The last part of the video is especially poignant, as NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders talks about fathers taking more responsibility for their actions and to serve as role models for their children. Family is the basis for society’s foundation. It’s also a tremendously successful anti-poverty program.
In January, Speaker Ryan and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) hosted a forum by the Jack Kemp Foundation on combating poverty. American Enterprise Institute Arthur Brooks, along with a good number of the then-2016 presidential field (like Dr. Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, and Gov. Chris Christie) also attended the conference, where it was played up as a showcase into the new right, who are warriors for the poor. After all, ceding this fight to liberals has only led to three more generations of Americans’ futures being stifled by big government programs that don’t work.