As we celebrate a national holiday commemorating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Timothy Wright III ’77, lawyer, public servant, theologian, and activist asks who, really, do we celebrate? Is it the gentle Dr. King of “I have a dream” where he saw black kids, white kids, and brown kids walking hand in hand. Or was it the Dr. King, who in the same speech, admonished the unspeakable horrors of police brutality inflicted on black people? Or will we celebrate the Dr. King whom Dr. James Cone calls America’s greatest theologian, asserting, “If theology is a disciplined endeavor to interpret the meaning of the gospel for the present time, and if the gospel is God’s liberation of the poor from bondage, then I would claim that no one has articulated the Christian message of freedom more effectively, prophetically, and creatively in America than Martin Luther King, Jr.” Will the real Dr. King please stand up!
Timothy W. Wright III '77 was born and raised in the City of Compton and attended Compton High School. As student body president, Wright served as student representative to the Compton Unified School Board of Trustees. A varsity football player, he served as "Helm's Hall of Fame" scholar-athlete in his senior year before attending Claremont Men’s College.
As the first in his family to attend college, Wright points to the inspiration of Dr. King Jr. as his greatest and seminal inspiration for attending college and law school. Wright strove to become an asset to the campaign for human rights and justice that Dr. King would come to symbolize.
At Claremont Mens’ College, Wright researched and wrote his senior thesis entitled, "Indicators of Underdevelopment: A Case Study of the Angolan Economy." During law school, as a student activist in the anti-apartheid movement, Wright worked with the United Nations on legal matters pertaining to the independence of several African countries. As a lawyer, Wright participated in the constitutional negotiations in Cape Town, South Africa, that led to the release of Nelson Mandela. Wright also served as a legal participant with the U.N. Council for Namibia and as an international election monitor for South Africa's first free elections where he was assigned to monitor the elections in the Western Cape teaming with Nigerian President Obasanjo of Nigeria and New York Mayor David Dinkins.
Wright served as special counsel and director of intergovernmental affairs for former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and was commissioner of the department of economic development for the City of Chicago under two administrations. Wright has also served as President Bill Clinton’s first director of domestic policy and in various capacities in the administrations of Presidents Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. He also served as chief of staff for Congressman Bobby L. Rush.
Wright was a director for the Southern African Economic Development Fund along with Ambassador Andrew Young and was a director of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. He has also served as chairman of the Sub-Saharan African Advisory Committee of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.
In January 2010, Wright was one of the winners in Politico magazine’s second annual “Reed Awards,” which are presented to “political and public affairs professionals at the top of their game,” according to the magazine. Wright was an award recipient in the special category, “Best Bare-Knuckled Street Fight Victory,” for his work, as Illinois senator Roland Burris’ lead attorney, in getting the U.S. Senate to allow Burris to obtain his appointed U.S. Senate seat.
Wright received a dual degree both in political science and economics from Claremont Mens’ College in 1977; a Juris Doctor from UCLA School of Law in 1983; a Masters of Divinity degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary in May 2018; he is currently studying for his Doctorate in Ministry Degree. He is a member of the Prophetic Leader Cohort at McCormick Theological Seminary, specializing in Liberation Ecclesiology, faith-based community economic development in urban communities.
Mr. Wright will deliver the 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemorative Lecture.
In an age of identity consciousness, Mark Lilla, professor of humanities at Columbia University and author of “The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics” explores what has happened to the idea of equal citizenship and whether it again serve as a foundation of liberal politics.
Mark Lilla was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1956, and was educated at the University of Michigan and Harvard University. After holding professorships at New York University and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, he joined Columbia University in 2007 as professor of the humanities. He has been awarded fellowships by the Russell Sage Foundation, the Institut d’Etudes Avancées (Paris), the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), and the American Academy in Rome. In 1995 he was inducted into the French Order of Academic Palms.
Lilla is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, the New York Times, and publications worldwide. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He lectures widely and has delivered the Weizmann Memorial Lecture in Israel and the Carlyle Lectures at Oxford University. In 2015, Overseas Press Club of America awarded him its prize for Best Commentary on International News in Any Medium.
Professor Lilla’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Salvatori Center at CMC.
Photo credit: Christophe Dellory
Michael Fortner, assistant professor of political science at City University of New York’s Graduate Center and author of “Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment” will address the rise of crime and drug addiction in African American communities in the post-Civil Rights era and discuss the role the black middle class played in the development of mass incarceration.
Michael Javen Fortner is assistant professor of political science at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. He received a B.A. in political science and African American studies from Emory University, and a M.A. in government and a Ph.D. in government and social policy from Harvard University.
Fortner is the author of “Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment” (Harvard University Press, 2015), a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and winner of the New York Academy of History’s 2016 Herbert H. Lehman Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in New York History. With Amy Bridges, he co-edited Urban Citizenship and American Democracy (SUNY Press, 2016).
He has also been published in The New York Times, Newsweek, and Dissent magazine, and his research has been covered in major media outlets, such as the New Yorker, New York Magazine, the Daily Beast, Time, WNYC and NPR.
Fortner is a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Urban History and Urban Affairs Review.
Wendy Sherman, former U.S. under-secretary of state for political affairs and the successful lead negotiator for the multilateral, complex deal with Iran, reveals strategies and tactics from her years of high-level international diplomacy that can help achieve successful outcomes in business negotiations in a global economy, international relations, and the global marketplace.
Wendy R. Sherman is senior counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group and former under-secretary of State for political affairs. She teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School as a professor of the Practice in Public Leadership and director of the School’s Center for Public Leadership. Sherman serves on the boards of the International Crisis Group and the Atlantic Council and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Aspen Strategy Group. Sherman led the U.S. negotiating team that reached agreement on a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran for which, among other diplomatic accomplishments, she was awarded the National Security Medal by President Barack Obama.
Prior to her service at the Department of State, she was vice chair and founding partner of the Albright Stonebridge Group, counselor to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, special advisor to President Bill Clinton, policy coordinator on North Korea, and assistant secretary for legislative affairs under Secretary of State Warren Christopher. Early in her career, she managed Senator Barbara Mikulski’s successful campaign for the U.S Senate and served as director of EMILY’S list. She served on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, was chair of the board of directors of Oxfam America and served on the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Policy Board and Congressional Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation and Terrorism.
Sherman is the author of “Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power and Persistence” published by Public Affairs, September 2018.
Ambassador Sherman will deliver the Spring 2019 lecture for the Res Publica Society Speaker Series.