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Remarks of President Lawrence H. Summers at Tobin School

Harvard After School Initiative event

Principal Egan, it is good to be back in school and better to be back at your school. I want to welcome also Alexandra Oliver-Davila, the Executive Director of Sociedad Latina, one of the organizations that will be receiving a grant today.

Superintendent Tom Payzant, you are a partner of our School of Education. You are a partner of our University. And let me tell all you children that you are getting a better education here in Boston because of what Superintendent Tom Payzant does. Thank you for being here, Tom. [APPLAUSE]

Representative Kevin Fitzgerald: Kevin, I’m told that your nephew was on Harvard’s football team. Harvard’s football team went undefeated this year. [LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE] And the best news of all is that there are a lot of Fitzgeralds and so we can look forward to more undefeated seasons. Thank you to you and your family.

More about you when I introduce you in a moment, Mr. Mayor. I’ll think about just what to say. I know we all join in congratulating you on your third inaugural and congratulating ourselves on having you as our Mayor.

We’re here for one reason really, and in a sense, Harvard exists for only one reason — the future of the world depends more than anything else on what young people learn and go forth and do. That, more than anything else, is going to determine what this community and what this country and what this world look like in the future.

We try at Harvard to help in many ways. That’s what our college is all about. That’s what our professors as they develop ideas are working on all the time. But we’ve got a responsibility also to the Harvard Class of 2012 and the Harvard Class of 2020 and the Harvard classes of the future, and that’s what this program is all about.

We are delighted to be partners with the City of Boston, with many of the important businesses in the City of Boston, with the Boston schools, and with the Boston city government to try to help young people in this city learn. And that’s what the After School for All Initiative is all about, after school programs for students. When I was talking to people involved with this program at Harvard, I said there were two things I cared about in terms of this program. First was that it be a program that works with students to help them learn, to help them do better in school, to make it more likely that they’ll come to universities like Harvard and someday have jobs like Superintendent Payzant’s or Mayor Menino’s. That was the first thing I thought was important.

The second thing I thought was important was that these programs be fun, that after school programs not just be more school. Yes, they can help with homework. Yes, they can help learn. But I hope they’re fun as well, because that’s a very important part of being a student and that’s a very important part of preparing for life as well.

Believe me, it’s not just the success stories of the people who have gone through these programs, but people do very elaborate studies of programs like this. They’ve found that across the country, they make a very big difference in people’s lives.

That’s why Harvard is very happy to be part of this. We’re providing today 19 different grants that will enable organizations like Sociedad Latina to provide services for over 3,000 children. I hope it makes a difference. I know it’s something that’s very, very important for us to do. But you know something? Harvard would not be doing what it could do, or what it should do, if this was just about us writing checks.

The Mayor spoke the day before yesterday in his inaugural speech about being partners with universities and being partners with Harvard in particular to make these communities better, and I welcomed what he said, because Harvard and Boston, Harvard and this area, have a common destiny.

If we succeed in all the things that we do, it will help Boston and Cambridge and the other surrounding communities. If Cambridge and Boston succeed in all the things they are trying to do, we will be a better university for it. And part of being that better university is that we will help with our spirit as well as with our money.

That is why I am so pleased that a very large fraction of Harvard undergraduates, of Harvard students each year, participate in various kinds of volunteer programs, making a difference in this community. I want to salute the efforts of the students from Phillips Brooks House. I want to salute the efforts of many of our faculty, who take an interest in urban issues. We have and will continue to make the financial contribution that we’re discussing here today, but no less important is the contribution of the goodwill and the spirit of the people of the Harvard community working with Cambridge, working with Boston, and above all for me, working with the children, who are our neighbors.

It’s now my great pleasure to introduce a friend, introduce a friend of Harvard’s, a friend of mine, and above all, a man who has dedicated his life to making things better for working families everywhere, a man who has dedicated his public service to the future of the children who are here with us today, the man Boston is proud to call its Mayor, Mayor Tom Menino.