Answering the Call

Topics: Education Policy, ESSA

At our most recent board meeting, we celebrated the 90th birthday of KnowledgeWorks board member, Judge Nathanial Jones. Jones is a retired federal judge and served as the general counsel for the NAACP during the 1970s. He is a giant in the fight for civil rights in this country and in South Africa. He a recipient of the Spingarn Medal along with such luminaries as George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King, Jr. He was the first African-American appointed assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio in 1962 and served as Assistant General Counsel for President Johnson.

In honor of his birthday, former President Clinton wished him well over video and President Obama sent him a letter, both expressing their gratitude for his life of service. Judge Jones is an icon. He is a gentle, contemplative warrior for justice. He has a quiet, unwavering force to him. He personalized a note on the inside cover of his autobiography, Answering the Call: An Autobiography of the Modern Struggle to End Racial Discrimination in America, to each senior staff member at KnowledgeWorks. Judge Jones wrote the following in my book:

Note from Judge Jones

I’m fortunate to know this man, but for this man to write me a personal note about my work is incredibly movingand unexpected. For him to call me a “strong advocate for improving education for all children” is beyond humbling and something I will cherish.

Like Secretary Riley about whom I wrote recently,  I feel truly honored to know Judge Jones and to have gotten to observe  and  learn from him. Both Secretary Riley and Judge Jones have made KnowledgeWorks a better place, but more importantly for all of us, they have spent their lives making America a better place.

One of my favorite quotes from Robert Kennedy comes at the end of his message on the evening of April 4, 1968, the day that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated,

“Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

Each of these men dedicated themselves to this exact charge and I’m exceedingly grateful for their dedication.