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December 16, 2020

Political commentator Van Jones set as virtual MLK event speaker for SVSU

Jones, VanSaginaw Valley State University in January will welcome Van Jones, a political commentator who regularly appears on nationally-televised TV programs, to deliver the keynote address for the 12th annual Great Lakes Bay Regional Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. This year's event will be presented virtually. 
Jones will appear Monday, Jan. 18, at 7 p.m. in an SVSU-hosted live event, streamed free online. To view the event, participants must register at
The Yale-educated attorney serves as president and founder of Dream Corps, a nonprofit focusing on social justice. He appears regularly on TV as a correspondent on CNN and a commentator on political talk shows such as NBC’s “Meet The Press.” 
Previously, he worked as the green jobs advisor for President Barack Obama in 2009. In that role, Jones helped coordinate $80 billion in green energy recovery spending. 
Jones led several social and environmental justice enterprises over the years, including The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Color of Change. 
He received recognition over the years from several organizations. Jones was the recipient of the World Economic Forum’s "Young Global Leader" designation, Rolling Stone’s “12 Leaders Who Get Things Done,” Fast Company's “12 Most Creative Minds On Earth,” a Webby Special Achievement Award, and Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” 
The 2021 MLK Jr. Celebration theme is “Working Together.” 
Mamie T. Thorns, the event organizer, said a theme promoting unity is especially relevant considering the virtual event will happen two days prior to the scheduled U.S. presidential inauguration ceremony. 
“We’re hoping the speaker will energize and motivate us, as well as give us all points on how we can bridge the divides that separate us,” said Thorns, SVSU’s chief diversity officer. 
In addition to Jones’ keynote address, the Jan. 18 program will include the presentation of regional scholarship awards by the Bay Area, Midland Area and Saginaw community foundations to high school seniors who have embodied Martin Luther King Jr.'s ideals. 
Officials also will announce the winners of the Drum Major Awards, which recognizes people whose community involvement in the Great Lakes Bay Region serves to advance King's vision. 
Jones joins a prestigious list of keynote speakers featured during the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Celebration at SVSU. In January 2020, Ruth D. Jones, a trailblazer at NASA, served as the guest. Previous speakers include Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, in 2019; Karen Carter, the chief inclusion officer for The Dow Chemical Company, in 2018; and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in 2017.