“There is a lot of work to do.” Ambassador Lewis shares a treasure trove of experience and advice with MPP Students

Evaluation Lab News

Posted: Oct 11, 2021 - 12:00am

From the time he graduated from a segregated high school in Kansas City, Kansas, Delano Lewis knew he wanted to be lawyer so he could use the law to make real change, particularly in civil rights. After earning his law degree in 1963, he moved to Washington, DC and held positions at the Department of Justice the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; lived in Nigeria and Uganda as a Peace Corp official; served as staff in the United States Senate and for the first Congressional Delegate from DC;  worked as an executive for communications companies for two decades; was president of National Public Radio; and, in 1998, received a phone call directly from Vice President Al Gore who asked him to be the US Ambassador to South Africa. Ambassador Lewis recently shared a treasure trove of experience and advice as a guest speaker for the MPP Policy Seminar.

Ambassador Lewis focused his presentation on HR 51, the bill that would make Washington DC a state in the Union and give it the same representation and rights as other states. DC residents are disenfranchised with no voting members in Congress. When DC was established in 1790, no one envisioned that people would be born, spend their lives, and die there. According to Ambassador Lewis, DC is the last colony, for which the colonists’ rallying cry of “No taxation without representation” still applies. 

After sharing some stories from different points in his long career, Mr. Lewis said that he feels that he has been fortunate as an African American in this country. And after everything he has seen in his life and in his long career, he thinks times in this country are more troubling now than any other time in his life. He really believed this country had made more progress than it has, and it is hard for him to be optimistic right now. Mr. Lewis told the policy students, “There is a lot of work to do. In terms of communicating with each other, listening to each other, respecting each other, and understanding each other. We have work to do. I hope those of you in public policy are ready to work because we are all going to need every bit of your talent.”