Tommy Preston, Jr., 28 years old, is used to getting face time with the state’s most powerful people. Now he can add the President of the United States to his list.
President Barack Obama has asked the South Carolina attorney to be a part of his new initiative, “My Brother’s Keeper.” The president launches his special project today “to help young men of color stay on track.”
Preston is a former student body president at the University of South Carolina, a Nexsen Pruet attorney, mentored by SC Supreme Court Justice Jean Toal, and also heads the Bill and Melinda Gates Millenium Scholars Alumni Association.
But his commitment is to literacy issues in South Carolina. He founded “Cocky’s Reading Express,” a continuing program at USC to excite kids about reading.
“I assume that a combination of all of these things took interest in the White House,” Preston told South Carolina Radio Network Thursday as he prepared to go to the White House.
Preston got a call Monday from the office of Valerie Jarrett, the president’s senior advisor.
Along with his role with the Gates scholars, he says he is motivated by South Carolina’s particular needs. In literacy alone, Preston said, “When you look at the rate of students around South Carolina who are unable to read by the time they go to third grade, a significant margin of them are African American men.”
To prepare for the meeting, Preston sought advice from USC President Harris Pastides, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and Senator Tim Scott.
The president will make the announcement in person on national TV and then retreat into a meeting with Preston and the others invited into the initiative. It is the type of people invited that impresses Preston.
“One thing I see very unique about this is the number of stakeholders involved…business leaders from corporations around the country, corporations are actually funding most of this, educators, community leaders, young people old people, people from various races. There is certainly a diversity of opinions,” Preston said.
I think that there are a lot of people in South Carolina who would be interested in this, that this is a problem we have here,” Preston adds. “If we can bring together businesses, the government, institutions of higher education and some other groups to work on this, I think we’re going to be much better for it.”