Columbia Honors NAACP's Ben Jealous

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Benjamin T. Jealous, the young president of the NAACP, returned to his Alma Mater, Columbia, recently for an award.

He was one of five Columbia College alumni honored at the school’s annual John Jay Award dinner this week.

Jealous recalled that he chose Columbia because of its law school professor Jack Greenberg, the longtime director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; and he wasn’t disappointed, he said.

As a student, Jealous worked in Harlem as a community organizer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. On campus, he acted what he preached. He led school-wide movements, including boycotts and pickets for homeless rights, a successful campaign to save full-need financial and need-blind admissions.

While his involvement in protests led to a suspension along with three other student leaders, he was encouraged to return to Columbia where he completed his bachelor’s degree in Political science. With support from his mentors at Columbia, he later applied and won a coveted Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University where he earned a master’s degree in comparative social research.

"I went to the Department of Justice for a meeting with attorney general Holder," Jealous, in accepting his award said, recalling a recent session with Eric Holder. "I looked up at the wall at a photo of the president of the United States next to a photo of the attorney general of the United States. We have a lot to be proud of in this country right now and we have a lot to be proud of at this College right now."

Barack Obama graduated in the Columbia College class of 1983 and Eric Holder graduated from the College in 1973 and Columbia law school in 1976.

Jealous pointed out that civil rights pioneer Greenberg was responsible for his first job as a community organizer, which not only set him on his career path, but also was where he was lucky enough to meet his wife.

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