At the Council on Foundation's conference a fellow conference attendee told me she was sick of being called an "emerging leader". Her point was that she was already a real leader, not someone who was practicing until she could really make it to the big league. Another young, but already emerged leader is Ben Jealous, soon to be former President of the Rosenberg Foundation. Ben, who is 35, was one of the youngest foundation Presidents in the field. He may be young but his knowledge of the impact of the foundation sector is extensive and through his involvement with the ABFE Connecting Leaders Fellowship, has taught me a lot about leveraging foundation endowments through socially responsible investments. On Saturday, he was voted in as the new President of the NAACP, making him the youngest President in the organization's 99 year history. I wish I could say that the board of directors of the NAACP brought him on with open arms, realizing that his extensive social justice experience and ability to bring the organization into the 21st century, would be great benefits but according to CNN:
"The NAACP has chosen Ben Jealous as its new president after a contentious debate that lasted long into the night, members of its board of directors said Saturday.
Jealous, 35, will be the youngest president in the NAACP's 99-year history, The Associated Press reported.
When the 34-21 vote was announced, "no one clapped or celebrated," one board member said after the meeting in Baltimore, Maryland."
The generational transition in the sector has already begun. There are young people that are making a huge difference and are going to change how nonprofits and foundations look and operate. This transition may not always be easy but it needs to happen to help long-standing organizations remain relevant to current community needs.
The board of the NAACP may not have clapped for Ben's appointment, but I and many other young people are giving him a standing ovation. To me, his appointment means that the NAACP is taking the next generation seriously and instead of me writing the organization off as a relic of the civil rights movement that is no longer relevant to the pressing needs of the African American community today, I am renewing my membership.
Congratulations Ben! I am so proud of you and excited to see your continued impact on the community.