The youngest-ever president of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, CC ’94, will be speaking at Columbia College’s Class Day. At a celebration tonight in Havana Central’s back room, Class Council 2010 President Cliff Massey revealed Jealous’s selection after weeks of speculation that saw names floated including Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan
Jealous, who was involved with the BSO and several other student groups while on campus, got his B.A. in political science at Columbia before heading to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar for his Master’s in comparative social research. He has worked at the Rosenberg Foundation, Amnesty International, and the National Newspaper Publishing Association. He was among the 2009 honorees for the John Jay Award, given every year to an alum of the College for his or her distinguished professional career.
Massey expressed excitement over the choice, telling Bwog, “Since he graduated sixteen years ago, he’s faced similar challenges to the ones the Class of 2010 will face soon,” citing Jealous’s work in health care litigation and social justice issues. CC Dean Michele Moody-Adams wrote in a press release, “Benjamin Todd Jealous wonderfully personifies the value that Columbians have long placed on active engagement in the world and in finding the solutions to society’s challenges. We will be proud to welcome him back to Morningside Heights.”
Massey also told Bwog that the Class Day committee’s original shortlist also included actress Anna Paquin (who studied at Columbia for a year) and President Barack Obama. Though Obama was the most popular choice among students, the security measures required for a presidential visit (such as the Secret Service securing several Res Halls while students were still living in them) made an invite impossible. SEAS and GS, the ball’s in your court. Full Columbia press release after the jump.
“NEW YORK, March 24, 2010 — Columbia College announced today that Ben Jealous (CC‘94), president and CEO of the NAACP, will deliver the keynote address at this year’s Class Day ceremony, the annual event honoring graduating seniors. This year’s ceremony will take place on the morning of Monday, May 17, on the South Lawn of Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus.
Elected to his position in 2008, Jealous is the 17th and youngest-ever president of the NAACP — the nation’s champion of social justice, public service and human rights, now celebrating its century anniversary.
“Columbia’s undergraduate experience is built on the idea that our college must not only help students develop their capacities for critical thinking, but also nurture in them the responsibilities of citizenship in a democratic society,” said Dean Michele Moody-Adams. “Benjamin Todd Jealous wonderfully personifies the value that Columbians have long placed on active engagement in the world and in finding the solutions to society’s challenges. We will be proud to welcome him back to Morningside Heights.”
While a student at Columbia, Jealous sought the guidance of acclaimed civil rights lawyer Jack Greenberg (CC’45, L’48), who served as dean of Columbia College from 1989-93 and is currently a professor and Vice Dean at Columbia Law School. With Greenberg’s help, Jealous secured an internship with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), for which he later served as a community organizer in Harlem.
On campus, Jealous led movements in support of homeless rights, full-need financial aid and need-blind admissions. A battle over environmental justice eventually led to his suspension from Columbia University.
After returning to Columbia College and earning a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1994, Jealous went on to earn a master’s degree in comparative social research from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.
He has served as president of the Rosenberg Foundation, director of the U.S. Human Rights Program at Amnesty International, and executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), an organization made up of more than 200 independent historically black and black-owned newspapers.
At Amnesty International, he led efforts to protect human rights in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, and while at the NNPA he rebuilt the organization’s national news service and significantly increased the online presence of black newspapers. Over the course of his career, Jealous has become renowned for his commitment to human rights.”