One of my favorite people, Ben Jealous, the new CEO of the NAACP was the second speaker at the NGen welcome lunch. Ben walked us through a story of the movement to abolish the death penalty that he was a part of right after graduating from college in 1996. Some lessons from that movement included:
- Break big goals, like abolishing the death penalty into smaller goals like ending the juvenile death penalty.
- Engage young people in organizing work because they can engage unusual coalitions like the civil rights community partnering with the conservative pro-life movement.
- Invest in the development of your workforce, regardless of age. The anti-death penalty movement had some key wins, these wins were the result of the organizing work of a recent college grad who had success organizing students in high school and on college campuses.
Ben also gave great professional development advice as a 35 year old CEO of a national civil rights organization:
- Seek out many mentors and give them the opportunity to support your growth. Building those relationships are key in any field.
- He had specific advice for those that care about social justice. Develop the skill sets needed to build institutions, not just the skills to organize individuals. This is the way to create systemic change and strengthen your career.
Expect big things from Ben and the NAACP in the coming months and years.