Cleo Washington ’85, current vice president of external affairs for AT&T Alabama and a former Indiana state senator, will deliver the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. keynote address at 7:30 p.m. EST on Monday, Jan. 15, in Salter Hall.
The address, Accelerating Gradualism in a Post Affirmative Action World, spotlights a day celebrating the life and leadership of the noted civil rights champion. Using the idea of gradualism, that change occurs over time gradually rather than in large leaps, Washington will discuss a brief history of the Civil Rights Amendments (13th, 14th, and 15th) and the long journey to achieve some semblance of their original intent 100 years later with passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
“I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to return to Wabash College, where I spent the four most impactful years of my life learning critical thinking, and deliver the MLK keynote,” said Washington. “I will applaud the progress made in bridging graduation rates over the last 50 years, and show how all parts of the political spectrum should pursue policies to reduce the persistence of income and wealth inequality.”
Washington oversees legislative and regulatory affairs for AT&T Alabama, maintaining relationships on both sides of the political aisle.
He has more than 25 years of leadership in the public and private sector, with experience as a deputy public defender and trial lawyer. Washington, who served as the Indiana state senator representing District 10 from 1996-2000, also served for five years as a city councilman in South Bend, Indiana.
Washington is committed to financial literacy, and talks regularly to youth and young adults about the importance of investing in markets and wealth building.
He majored political science at Wabash and earned his law degree from the University of Missouri in 1988.
Steven Jones ’87, dean for professional development and director of the MXIBS, encourages the Wabash College community and friends to share in this moment to pay tribute to the legacy of Dr. King.
“I am grateful to have my friend, Cleo Washington, return to campus as the keynote speaker for our King Celebration,” Jones said. “Our connection dates back to my freshman year in 1983. I knew he would always be a voice for the voiceless and those who continued to be challenged by poverty, who deserve equal pay regardless of gender or race, and who are subjected to education inequality in the classroom.”
The event is free and open to the public.