University to celebrate King's legacy

Van Jones

Van Jones

Photo by Richard Hume

Princeton University will commemorate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. with its annual King Day celebration Monday, Jan. 17, in Richardson Auditorium of Alexander Hall. Doors open at 1 p.m. The keynote address will be delivered by Van Jones, an environmental activist, social entrepreneur and former White House adviser who is a visiting fellow at Princeton.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 1:15 p.m. with musical selections from One Voice-Trenton Children's Chorus and Westminster Conservatory Cantus and from soloist Rochelle Ellis.

The ceremony will include the presentation of awards to student winners in grades 4 through 12 from area schools who entered an annual Martin Luther King Day-themed contest in literary arts, visual arts and video categories. This year's contests focus on the environmental impact of Hurricane Katrina or the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast region. While considering these environmental issues and King's vision for equality, as well as his concern for the poor and oppressed, students were asked to use a journalistic format to raise awareness, to encourage civic engagement, or to highlight issues about a related social, financial or political topic.

During the program the University also will present the MLK Day Journey Award, which recognizes a member of the Princeton faculty, staff or student body who best represents King's continued journey.

Jones, the keynote speaker, holds a joint appointment at Princeton as a distinguished visiting fellow in the Center for African American Studies and as a visiting lecturer in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He will teach a course this spring focusing on environmental politics, with a special emphasis on policies that create "green" economic opportunity for the disadvantaged.

Jones was a primary advocate for the Green Jobs Act, which President George W. Bush signed into law in 2007. He served from March to September 2009 as the Obama administration's special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, helping to shape the Obama administration's policy approach to making America's homes more energy efficient.

Jones is the author of "The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems," which explores the social, economic and political implications of the creation of green jobs. He co-founded three nonprofit organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change and Green For All. He currently is a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress and a senior policy adviser at Green For All.

The King Day event will be webcast live. It is convened and coordinated by the institutional equity and diversity team in the offices of the provost and human resources.