Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Dorothy Height

Dr. Dorothy Height has inspired generations of Americans to believe that our country can still make manifest its pledge to be "one nation under God ... with liberty and justice for all." The steadfast president of the National Council of Negro Women, Dr. Height was uniquely qualified for her work. She had a capacity to hear people and see in them their full potential and an even greater capacity to require that Presidents and Cabinet Secretaries do the same. It is rare to find an individual who had such a sustained influence on local and national leaders across the decades. Like Sojourner Truth before her, Dr. Height insisted that those with influence be inclusive and accountable. She made sure black male civil rights leaders welcomed women at the table. She made sure white feminist leaders embraced ending racism as a priority. And she made it impossible for Presidents to exclude women and people of color from their closest circle of advisers. In October, as we convened the One Nation Working Together rally — the most diverse march on Washington this country has seen — the words of the one woman among the leaders of the 1963 march guided us. "We have to improve life, not just for those who ... know how to manipulate the system," Dr. Height counseled, "but also for and with those who often have so much to give but never get the opportunity."

Ben Jealous

Jealous is the president and CEO of the NAACP