Andrew Jackson Young Convocation Keynote Speaker and Honorary Degree RecipientAndrew Young has always viewed his foremost career through the lens of his initial career – that of an ordained minister. His work for civil and human rights, his many years in public office as a congressman, his appointment as the first African-American Ambassador to the United Nations, his tenure as the mayor of Atlanta, his leadership of the Atlanta Olympic Games, his advocacy of investment in Africa through Good Works International, L.L.C. and the establishment of the Andrew J. Young Foundation are all in response to his call to serve.
Ambassador Young brings a unique perspective, formed by his wealth of experience in national and global leadership, to his focus on the challenges of this era. He confronted segregation with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and galvanized a movement that transformed a nation through non-violence. Young was a key strategist and negotiator during the civil rights campaigns in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama, resulting in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
He was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1972, the first African American elected from the Deep South since the Reconstruction Era. He served on the Banking and Urban Affairs and Rules Committees, sponsoring legislation that established a U.S. Institute for Peace, The African Development Bank and the Chattahoochee River National Park, all while negotiating federal funds for MARTA, the Atlanta highway system and a new international airport for Atlanta.
Young’s endorsement of President Jimmy Carter helped Carter win the Democratic Party’s nomination and subsequently, the election to the presidency. In 1977, President Carter appointed Young to serve as the nation's first African-American Ambassador to the United Nations where he negotiated an end to white-minority rule in Namibia and Zimbabwe and brought Carter’s emphasis on human rights to international diplomacy.
In 1981, Ambassador Young was elected mayor of Atlanta. It was during a time of recession and a reduction in federal funds for many cities. Through his leadership, he turned to international markets for investments in Atlanta attracting 1,100 new businesses. He also brought $70 billion of new private investment, thereby, adding one million jobs to the region. In 1985, Young became involved in the preservation of the Atlanta Zoo—now known as Zoo Atlanta—by developing public-private partnerships to leverage public dollars. Young was re-elected as mayor in 1985 with more than 80 percent of the vote. Atlanta hosted the 1988 Democratic National Convention during Young's term.
He led the effort to bring the Centennial Olympic Games to Atlanta and, as Co-Chair of the Atlanta Olympic Committee, oversaw the largest Olympic Games in Olympic history in the categories of the number of countries, the number of athletes and the number of spectators. He was awarded the Olympic Order, the highest award of the Olympic Movement.
Young retired from Good Works International, L.L.C. in 2012 after over a decade of facilitating sustainable economic development in the Caribbean and Africa to the business sector.
Ambassador Young has received honorary degrees from more than 100 universities and colleges in the U.S. and abroad. President Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom and France awarded him the Legion d’Honneur, the greatest civilian honor in each nation. President William Jefferson Clinton appointed Young as the founding chair of the Southern African Enterprise Development Fund.
In 2011, his portrait became part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
In addition, Young serves on a number of boards, including: The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Barrick Gold, the United Nations Foundation, the Atlanta Falcons, the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and The Andrew Young Center for International Affairs at Morehouse College. Andrew Young Presents, the Emmy-nominated, nationally syndicated series of documentary specials, produced by Ambassador Young through the Andrew J. Young Foundation, Inc., is seen in nearly 100 American markets and around the world through the Armed Services Network. The Andrew Young Foundation is engaged in documenting, preserving and interpreting Ambassador Young’s legacy of servant leadership toward ending racism, war and poverty for current and future leaders.
Young received the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award for his involvement on the television program, Look Up and Live.
Ambassador Young is the author of three books: A Way Out of No Way, An Easy Burden and Walk in My Shoes.
He is the father of four and the grandfather of eight. Ambassador Young and his wife, educator and civic leader, Carolyn McClain Young, reside in Atlanta.