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Editorial: New NAACP President

Old and young in a common cause

Incoming NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous is getting lots of good wishes.

But he knows that he has a mighty tall order to fill.

Only three years ago, similar tidings were sent to Bruce Gordon, the Camden native whose business acumen was supposed to resurrect the NAACP's stature as the nation's premier civil rights organization. Instead, after 19 months at the helm, Gordon and the NAACP declared irreconcilable differences and divorced.

Gordon and NAACP board chairman Julian Bond, who also has roots in the Philadelphia area, never agreed on what should be the organization's focus going forward. Bond also said Gordon didn't fulfill fund-raising goals.

Conceivably, Jealous and Bond will be more in tune since Bond practically ushered the new leader's appointment. Bond also believes Jealous' experience working with foundations will help him raise money for the NAACP.

The organization says it no longer has the $3 million debt it reported last year. But that's after reducing its paid employees from 119 to 60 and closing seven regional offices. And staring Jealous and Bond in the face is the NAACP's 100th anniversary celebration in February, for which they hope to raise $100 million.

But money may be the least of Jealous' challenges. He was also tapped because, at age 35, he may have more success connecting with the younger generation the NAACP needs to stay viable. But Jealous also must mend fences with an older generation that questions his civil rights chops.

The native Californian's parents - black mother, white father - were NAACP members in Baltimore. After Columbia and Oxford, Jealous worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in Harlem. He was a reporter and editor in Mississippi, executive director of the National Newspaper Publisher's Association, a program director for Amnesty International, and lastly president of the Rosenberg Foundation, a supporter of human-rights causes.

Many among the NAACP's 64-member board wanted their 17th president to be out of the same civil rights/church mold that produced previous leaders. Some are angry that Jealous was the only applicant Bond brought before them for a vote. Reconciliation is possible if all involved stay focused on the common goal to attack racism.