Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called for the Millennial generation to advance the cause of social justice during an event in St. William’s Chapel Tuesday evening.
Jealous impressed upon the audience that devotion and determination lead to success. He gave several examples of the NAACP’s tenacity in decades-long campaigns for the end of lynch mobs, segregation, capital punishment and voter discrimination.
“Today, I’m not going to talk about the easy things. I’m not going to talk about the three-year plan or the five-year plan,” Jealous said. “We [the NAACP] will claim our victory in advance — and we will — and get it done simply because we are willing to go the distance to get it done.”
According to Jealous, this determination is grounded in faith in both God and secular morals.
“We exist, all of us, in a context of faith,” Jealous said. “Whether that’s a secular faith — someone who does not believe in God but has faith in humanity — or whether that’s the many of us in this country … who do believe in God. And that faith, however you define it, is ultimately what makes us so powerful.”
Jealous added that many of the pressing issues facing this generation, ranging from inequality in education to the New York Police Department’s Stop-and-Frisk program, must be met with determination, frank discussion and prompt action.
“Our job is to make this land of opportunity the land of opportunity for all of America’s children,” he said.
Jealous warned that acceptance of racism as a societal norm inhibits progress toward social justice.
“We never talk about racism to make life better for us — we always deal with racism,” Jealous said.
The event also featured reflections from Minister Wendy Hamilton of Protestant Ministries and from members of Georgetown NAACP.
Mikaela Ferrill (COL ’15) described the NAACP’s continued importance to her and her community both at home and at Georgetown.
“I was really excited for this event because, as a member of the NAACP, I think it’s really important for us to be able to be in touch with President Benjamin Jealous,” Ferrill said.
Casey Gery (COL ’14) asked Jealous to elaborate on the day-to-day role college students can play in the social justice movement in a question-and-answer session.
“I think the greatest thing about what the president said was things that we can actually do. Because we can be fired up and ready to go, but if you don’t know which way to go or what you’re going to do, you won’t be productive in society,” Gery said.
“He gave people something to think about, but also something to act on.”