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August 18, 2021

A presidential call to action

President Barack Obama paid tribute to legendary civil rights attorney Clarence B. Jones, who received the 2021 ABA Thurgood Marshall Award for his career-long contributions to the advancement of U.S. civil rights, civil liberties and human rights.

Jones has been committed to the advancement of racial justice for more than six decades, making his indelible mark on history as an advisor, speech writer and close friend of Martin Luther King Jr., who served alongside the reverend in the fight for civil rights. He is now a scholar-in-residence at Stanford University.

In his video tribute, Obama said Jones was the ultimate inspiration to him when he was a young attorney, saying that Jones’ work helped to “bend the arc of history toward justice and freedom.”

“One thing that his story teaches us is that we cannot rest,” Obama also told ABA members.

The former U.S. president called for attorneys to keep the nation’s long-running conversation with its conscience going – whether it’s about how to guarantee every American’s right to vote or how to eliminate racial bias in the criminal justice system.

“And you can reach back to give the next generation of lawyers a hand up, especially those who might not have the access to the same resources or support systems that you did,” Obama said.

“Let’s do everything we can to give those young lawyers, one of whom can be the next Clarence B. Jones, the opportunity to succeed.”

For more on Jones and his ABA honor, including an interview with the civil rights leader and the “Daily Show’s” Ronny Chieng, see “Civil rights legend Clarence B. Jones honored, recounts lessons for today’s fight for equality.”

Established in 1992 by the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, the Thurgood Marshall Award is named in honor of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who epitomized individual commitment, in word and action, to the cause of civil rights in this country. The award recognizes similar long-term contributions by other members of the legal profession to the advancement of civil rights, civil liberties and human rights in the United States.