Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary and Chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, Broderick Johnson is a successful man by any standard. But as a child growing up in Baltimore, Maryland the road to success was not yet paved for boys like him.
Johnson was born in 1956, two years after the Brown vs Board of Education decision. His parents enrolled him in Catholic schools in an attempt to help him to reach his full potential after a public school teacher told them that he was “well on his way to reform school”.
“That was sort of the early description of the school to prison pipeline,” Johnson said Thursday in Des Moines, IA.
After his parent’s intervention Johnson continued on to the College of the Holy Cross and then to the University of Michigan to receive his J.D. Before working in the White House he served as the Vice President at AT&T and Bell South, he partnered at a law firm and co-founded the Collins/Johnson Group.
Johnson visited Des Moines to celebrate the groundbreaking of a sculpture project honoring the founding of the National Bar Association. He shared with the crowd how he became a lawyer and the obstacles and non-believers along the way.
Des Moines native Kelcey Nichols was pleasantly surprised to see Johnson at the event.
“I didn’t think that anyone from the White House would come to little old Iowa for a ground breaking ceremony. I think it showed that he and the White House took this memorial seriously,” Nichols said. “I enjoyed listening to him talk about his childhood. A lot of times we distance ourselves from race-based discrimination or try to deny that it exists, but he provided examples from his own life.”
Soon Johnson will be leaving the White House as a new President is sworn in. He made no mention of his career plans but he doesn’t plan to attend the inauguration.
“I don’t think I’ll be sitting in that box in January,” Johnson said “I’ll be somewhere on a beach hopefully resting and getting some nice sun.”