New York Attorney General Letitia James will deliver the keynote address at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies Graduation Ceremony on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Here are five things to know about New York Attorney General Letitia James:
- A trailblazer for under-represented communities. An HBCU alum, James received her J.D. from Howard University. She is the first woman of color to hold statewide office in New York and the state's first woman to be elected Attorney General.
- She is a “born and bred Brooklynite." James fought in court on behalf of children and families on issues including children in foster care, children with disabilities, and tenant protections. New Yorkers overwhelmingly elected her to a second term as Public Advocate in November 2017.
- James is inspired by the political legacy of U.S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. "I have always hung on to Shirley Chisholm's words: 'If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.' Sometimes that's exactly what you have to do. You bring your own chair—and if you need to, you create your own table," she once said.
- Her teachings as a SIPA professor focus on criminal justice reform. Recently named the William S. Beinecke Visiting Professor of Public Policy at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, James co-teaches the course, Rethinking Policing in the 21st Century, with Basil Smikle. “I need students with bright minds, individuals who thirst for knowledge, who believe in an exchange of ideas, to come forward. We need you now. The state needs you, the nation needs you,” she recently shared with Columbia SIPA News.
- An advocate for student loan relief. James has worked to protect people from predatory for-profit colleges and student loan debt collectors. Last year in response to the economic fallout from coronavirus, she distributed relief to student loan borrowers in New York by obtaining $4 million in forbearance through all settlements from fraudulent debt relief companies.