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Zale Lecture and Award 2024

On April 16th, the Stanford Public Policy Program had the great honor of presenting the Zale Award for Public Service to Clarence B. Jones, in recognition for his illustrious career as a leader and advocate for the cause of civil rights around the world. Since 1980, the Morris B. and Edna Zale Lectureship has brought dedicated leaders, policymakers, and innovators from a broad spectrum of public and private life to campus. The Zale Lecture is open to the Stanford Public Policy community and has been presented by such distinguished speakers as Toni Atkins, Willie Brown, George Shultz, Tino Cuéllar, and Sam Liccardo. 

Dr. Jones’ career spans seven decades and has featured many consequential achievements in the public, private, and social sectors. Throughout the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Dr. Jones served as speechwriter, legal counsel, and confidant to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He later served as a negotiator during the Attica Prison riots and as the publisher of the New York Amsterdam News. He is the first African American to be named an allied member of the New York Stock Exchange and has launched multiple organizations dedicated to the pursuit of justice and human rights, such as the Clarence B. Jones Institute for Non-Violence and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco.

Dr. Jones addressed the students and faculty of the Public Policy program, including a series of questions and answers alongside program Director, Gregory Rosston.

Guests of the event were captivated by Dr. Jones’ conviction and pluck as he reminisced on his work with Dr. King, while calling on students to cultivate a life rooted in action and service to others. Dr. Jones, in response to a question about the source of his confidence, attributed his strength of personality to a simple phrase: “You are beautiful.” That is what the nuns at the Sisters of The Blessed Sacrament’s foster home in Eastern Pennsylvania told him daily growing up. Jones spoke of how their care and compassion inspired him to take risks and forge his own path.

In a retelling of his first meeting with MLK, Jr., Dr. Jones inspired attendees with the details of how he was completely taken by King’s oratory and persuasive abilities, which led to Dr. Jones moving his young family across the country to join the movement in the early 1960s.  

Throughout his remarks, Dr. Jones would effortlessly weave his past experiences with today’s most pressing societal challenges, including political polarization, inequality, and war in the Middle East. In addition to his sagaciousness, Dr. Jones delighted the students and faculty with his inviting sense-of-humor and contagious verve. He concluded with a call-to-action, encouraging students to think critically about the challenges in society today, but always with a bias towards concrete action.

“So… what are you going to do? I’m 93-years-old, you aren’t going to let me down now are you!?”

Students were fortunate to receive a copy of his recently published book, Last of the Lions, which offers a vibrant perspective on human nature and light and dark sides of American values.

Just two weeks following the Zale Lecture, Dr. Jones was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Stanford Public Policy thanks Dr. Jones for his incredible public service and generous encouragement of our students.