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Edley shares his civil rights vision to kick off Black History Month

Did you know that Dean Christopher Edley Jr. of UC Berkeley Law School was once President Barack Obama’s professor at Harvard Law School?

Or that he met his wife — community leader, corporate attorney, UC alumna and former senior White House official Maria Echaveste — in the Roosevelt Room of the West Wing? (She thought he was cute but that he talked too much.)

In his Feb. 2 talk at UCOP, the kickoff event for February’s Black History Month celebration, Edley intertwined his expansive vision of civil rights over the past half century with entertaining details about his life and career.

In case you missed it, you can catch Edley’s hour-long talk on UC’s Ustream channel. The event was sponsored by UCOP’s Black Staff and Faculty Organization.

Edley has combined public service with academics throughout his career, serving on the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in the Carter and Clinton White Houses, and working in a range of public policy areas including civil rights, education, health care, immigration and welfare. He also served as a senior policy adviser for candidate Barack Obama.

In his talk, he said that “policy plumbing” — his term for the analyses, footnotes and other administrative minutiae of public policy programs and initiatives — has distracted government and an entire nation from the fundamental values and aspirations that should be the foundation for any social program.

He challenged the University of California to embrace its mission as a “world-class public research university” by forging collaboration among the best minds in multiple disciplines to tackle not just education and civil rights, but other great problems like health care and climate change.

“Who better to tackle that challenge than a great public university?” Edley asked. “If we focus on these great problems, it won’t just be about greatness; it will be about justice.”

President Yudof introduced Edley in superlative terms like “ageless,” “remarkable” and “brilliant,” adding that Edley’s integrity sets a “standard that all of us should aspire to.”

Edley also serves as faculty director of Berkeley’s Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity, a multidisciplinary think tank, and as senior policy adviser to President Yudof. He received a B.A. in Mathematics and Economics from Swarthmore College and a J.D. and M.P.P. from Harvard, where he was a professor for 23 years.

His academic work is primarily in the areas of administrative law, civil rights, education policy and domestic public policy. In 2011 he was appointed co-chair of the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission.

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