Youngest-ever NAACP president talks leadership, equality
Benjamin Todd Jealous spoke in a Wharton Leadership Lecture Thursday night
March 21, 2013, 10:35 pm·
Imran Cronk | DP
“You cannot lead unless you can listen.”
These words embody the message Benjamin Todd Jealous — the National Association for the Advancement of Color People’s youngest ever president and CEO — offered more than 100 students yesterday at Huntsman Hall.
The 40-year-old Jealous delivered the most recent Wharton Leadership Lecture, emphasizing the NAACP’s ongoing fight for equality and justice.
In an engaging conversation, the NAACP’s newest superstar — who has taken helm of the organization by increasing membership and donations — discussed the lecture series’ theme of leadership in the context of his own career.
Since becoming president and CEO in 2008, the NAACP’s online activists have increased from 175,000 to 600,000, and the number of consistent donors went from 16,000 to 120,000.
In a talk shaped by the contemporary realities faced by minorities, especially blacks, Jealous discussed the Civil Rights Movement and the prospect of equality for all American citizens.
Among his top priorities in attaining this equality were abolishing the death penalty, promoting federal legislation against wrongful imprisonment and improving access to education — including higher education.
When asked about on-campus diversity and access to education, Jealous — who was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University — stressed the importance of promoting inclusion.
To illustrate his point, he recalled a statistic concerning student athletes. Last year, he said, the graduation rate for black male basketball players at the University of Connecticut was 0 percent, compared to an 11 percent overall team graduation rate.
And referring to black Americans’ ability to create wealth after the Civil Rights Movement, Jealous said, “We got the right, but we lost what we had.”
He argued that the NAACP has the crucial role of encouraging and promoting the creation of wealth in order to promote sustainability.
College sophomore Kyle Webster — present of Penn’s NAACP chapter — said he was “pleasantly surprised by the amount of students present” and felt empowered by the speakers’ testimony.
Other students attending the lecture, such as second-year Wharton MBA student Nitin Sharma, praised Jealous’ honesty and insightfulness.
Sharma, a member of the Wharton Leadership Lecture Committee, was also thrilled to have had the honor of introducing Jealous, “who has achieved so much in constantly changing times,” he said.
The lecture also wasn’t limited to current Penn students. 2005 Law School graduate Cassandra Georges expressed the immense importance of valuing the knowledge and wisdom Jealous brought to everyone in attendance. The speaker’s wisdom, she said, “inspired people from all years and generations.”
Before thanking the audience and taking his flight back home, Jealous left his last impression with three rules for success in life: “Celebrate your victory, make time to have a life and understand that life gives you strength to achieve.”
This article has been revised to reflect that the the number of the NAACP’s online activists, not its general membership, has swelled from 175,000 to 600,000.