During the Second Annual Ronald H. Brown American Journey Awards, five hundred people gathered in Washington, D.C. to pay tribute to the life and legacy of Ron Brown, the first African American appointed to the Cabinet post of Secretary of Commerce and the first to serve as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Brown, whose life was unexpectedly cut short when his plane crashed during a trade mission in Eastern Europe, is heralded by many as a dynamic and compassionate individual whose love for people informed all that he did.
“Ron Brown was not only a charismatic figure,” said Michael A. Mallory, Executive Director of the Ron Brown Scholar Program, “Ron Brown opened doors for people who didn’t know there were doors there.”
Mallory, who with the support of Anthony M. Pilaro, an accomplished attorney, investment banker and philanthropist, founded the Ron Brown Scholar Program in 1996, further noted, “So many people, even our scholars, are compartmentalized in terms of growth. They have a certain sense about their opportunities, but they don’t know what their opportunities are. Ron Brown found the opportunities and showed people a light to opportunities.” And that, according to Mallory is what the Scholar Program is all about, “shining the light on opportunities and helping students grow from one place to the next.”
To these ends, the core values for a Ron Brown scholar are compassion, introspection and valuing people. “We’re looking for young people who have a history of giving, or want to give, or want the opportunity to give. And we want to make sure we enhance that opportunity,” said Mallory in describing the ideal scholar.
It is with these same goals in mind that the Ronald H. Brown American Journey Awards seek to honor notable and committed figures in modern society. Therefore, it should be no surprise that this year, Julian Bond, former Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was among the night’s honorees.
“It’s a big thrill for me to see the young people who are going to be here tonight,” Bond said in remarks to Politic365. “These young people, but for this program, might not have had an opportunity to do the marvelous things they’re doing. But the Ron Brown Scholarship Program gave them the opportunity to go to some of the best schools in America.”
Mindful of the important example that Ron Brown Scholars can set, Mr. Bond took a moment to reflect on the importance of education and mentorship in the lives of young people today.
We’ve always said that education is important, and Black Americans have always done what they can to make sure they got an education and their children get an education. I’m not sure we’ve kept this emphasis as firm and steady as we can. I’ve always thought we’ve never done enough, and we can certainly do more.
He went on to note that,
Every school in every community ought to be the school I want to send my child to, or you want to send your child to, or I want my grandchild to go to, and unfortunately, that’s not the case. And we need to make sure that is the case because we can’t afford to have ignorant children running around.
Bond thinks that students “need to take an opportunity for an education seriously.” As introspective as he is kind, he observed that, “if you don’t have an education, you really don’t count in this world, I’m sorry to say.
“The day that you could make a living with a strong back and a weak mind is gone. If you’re a young person trying to get ahead in this world, the best way to do it is by hitting those books.”
To help honor Bond and the legacy of Ron Brown, Ben Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP echoed the sentiments of many in attendance at the event. “Ron Brown was one of the great mentors of the 20th century. He had a great spirit.”
Capturing the true meaning of the American Journey Awards, Jealous proclaimed that
In these times, honoring people who are great mentors is important. Honoring people who knew how to reach across the aisle and really help people identify the common good and move a positive agenda is important, and an art that is increasingly lost in this town. So for all those reasons, when I was asked to come tonight and honor our past chairman Julian Bond, and also pay homage to Ron Brown, it was an easy thing to do.
In addition to legendary civil rights activist Julian Bond, Thomas Boggs, Chairman, Patton Boggs LLP and Eddie C. Brown, President, CEO & Founder, Brown Capital Management were also among the American Journey Award honorees.