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Helping America Become a Grad Nation

General Colin Powell, founding chairman of America’s Promise Alliance, talks about his event with President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan promoting "Grad Nation," a new multi-year campaign to mobilize all Americans to help end the high school dropout crisis.

Education in Focus

My wife Alma and I are honored to have President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joining us today to announce a new multi-year campaign to mobilize all Americans to help end the high school dropout crisis. We call this work Grad Nation.

For the past two years, America’s Promise Alliance has been traveling the country, raising awareness about how high dropout rates and low readiness for college and work undermine our nation’s future. In nearly all 50 states and 55 cities, we have convened high-level Dropout Prevention Summits that brought together nearly 30,000 mayors and governors, business and community leaders, school administrators, students and parents. They have committed to concrete action plans to improve graduation rates in their states and communities.

To that end, the time for talking and planning has ended. Now we must turn our attention to solutions. This means acting on all the lessons we’ve learned at our summits, and more importantly, making sure all Americans see their stake in this and join us to reach an important goal, which is to see that 90 percent of today’s fourth-graders graduate from high school on time. If we achieve this, we will not only be a more healthy and prosperous nation, but we can also help realize President Obama’s goal of making the United States the global pacesetter of college graduation by 2020.

The simple proposition is this—improving graduation rates is not just an education issue; it’s a community issue. We cannot expect more from our schools and young people until all Americans are prepared to be more involved, because so many of the building blocks that make for success in school involve effort outside of the classroom.

Grad Nation is the way for us to mobilize to win this battle.

Much like the Olympic athletes we’ve been inspired by recently, we all need to push past our comfort levels and make our work benefit something greater than ourselves — our country. Whether it is through City Year’s “In School and On Track” initiative or The First Tee’s National School Program, our nearly 400 national Alliance partners and their local affiliates are stepping up to lead the way. We’re already seeing the impact of this type work in cities like Philadelphia and Tucson, which have improved their graduation rates by more than 20 percentage points in a decade.

So the question remains: What will you do? How can you help? The choice is simple. If we are to remain a great nation, we must be a Grad Nation.

To learn more about America’s Promise Alliance and Grad Nation, visit:

General Colin Powell is founding chairman of America’s Promise Alliance