Congressman/alumnus stresses teamwork, perseverance
By Natalie Murphy
U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries ’92 returned to his undergraduate alma mater with a message of converting challenges into opportunity along the pursuit of a profession in public service.
“The business of changing communities, countries, the world is not easy,” Jeffries said. “There’s not a straight line to success. You are going to encounter obstacles, adversity and failure. The key is if you are willing to persevere.”
Jeffries, serving his second term in the United States Congress, lost the New York state Assembly election twice at the beginning of his political career. But these hurdles didn’t cause him to lose sight of his aspirations.
“A setback is just a setup for a comeback,” he said.
The congressman was welcomed to the University Downtown Center, home to the College of Community and Public Affairs, on Oct. 10 in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Master of Public Administration program and Homecoming 2015. Jeffries spoke to members of Binghamton University and the community about his insight into succeeding in community-based practices.
According to Jeffries, who majored in political science, his experiences as a Binghamton University student sparked his desire to make a difference. Jeffries, who was active in the Black Student Union and president of his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, credited his engagement outside of the classroom to developing his confidence.
“There is so much going on in student life at an institution like Binghamton University. I encourage everyone to get involved in an issue you care about,” he said. “Binghamton was the first time in my life I had the opportunity to demonstrate leadership abilities.”
Jeffries, who has a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University and a law degree from New York University, said choosing Binghamton University for his undergraduate career prepared him for academic and financial success.
“It was clear to me that Binghamton was the best of both worlds,” Jeffries said. “I knew I could get a first-rate education at an affordable price.”
Jeffries said he is excited about the growth of the University and the community, as the talk also marked his first visit to the University Downtown Center.
“I made the observation that it was a very different downtown Binghamton,” Jeffries said. “Hopefully we are going to see the city of Binghamton and the downtown area further come to life.”
Throughout his speech, Jeffries stressed that teamwork is essential for making legitimate strides in the public sector and policymaking. Jeffries, a Democrat, represents New York’s Eighth Congressional District in Brooklyn and Queens, advocating for social and economic equality in one of the country’s most diverse communities.
“If we want to create a greater ideal for every American, we have to work together,” Jeffries said. “For all of us, it takes teamwork to make the dream work.”
Jeffries’ final words of advice encouraged the audience to create the “good kind” of trouble by challenging the status quo and confronting institutional injustices.
“Find a good team to be a part of, dismiss the doubters, don’t worry about the setbacks and go out there in the world and get into some good trouble,” Jeffries said.
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