Indian American Vanita Gupta appointed as president and CEO of Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Gupta will officially take charge on June 1, 2017.

Indian American civil rights lawyer Vanita Gupta has been appointed as the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and its sister organization The Leadership Conference Education Fund.

Gupta was unanimously elected by a joint board meeting consisting of 16 members on March 23rd. She will officially assume the roles on June 1, 2017.

Gupta was most recently the head of Civil Rights Division at the US Department of Justice in Obama administration. She will take over the titles from Wade Henderson who has served as president and CEO of both the organizations since 1996.

“When Wade announced his decision, we set out to find an exceptional individual, someone with a passion for advocacy, a record of achievement, a strategic vision, and the skills to lead our organizations, our dynamic coalition and this nation to a more just and inclusive future,” chair of the Leadership Conference board Judith Lichtman said. “Vanita is that individual.”

William Robinson, chair of The Leadership Conference Education Fund board, said Gupta, 42, represents the “next generation” of civil rights leaders.

“As the first woman and first child of immigrants to serve as the leader of this organization, Vanita Gupta’s selection marks a turning point in civil rights history,” Robinson said. “The civil and human rights coalition is in very good hands.”

Obama appointed Gupta as principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in October 2014. She held the position until January.

Gupta oversaw a wide range of criminal and civil enforcement efforts to ensure equal justice and protect equal opportunity for all while she served as the nation’s chief civil rights prosecutor.

She focused the division on advancing constitutional policing and criminal justice reform; prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking; promoting disability rights and protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals; and ensuring voting rights for all.

“At a time when our nation’s ideals and progress are being threatened in such fundamental ways, The Leadership Conference is a vital nerve center of the broad swath of civil and human rights organizations that are fighting for justice, fairness, and equality around the country,” Gupta said.

“Civil and human rights work has never been easy, and these unprecedented times demand a clarity of vision, strategy, and solidarity that the Leadership Conference coalition is uniquely positioned to champion. I am honored and humbled to take on this essential work to guarantee that justice and equality apply to every individual as we struggle to be a more perfect union and remain a beacon for hope in the world,” she added.

Accepting the entitlements, Gupta said, “Wade Henderson will go down as one of the all-time great civil and human rights leaders. A true visionary and a brilliant leader, Wade has fundamentally transformed both The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund into the indispensable organizations they are today. It is my privilege to follow in his footsteps and build on his legacy in these challenging times.”

“When I announced my decision to step down as head of The Leadership Conference, I noted that the day-to-day work of civil rights advocacy is critically important, but on its own, is not enough,” Henderson said.

“Leaders also have the responsibility to cultivate, encourage and make paths for the next generation to lead and to thrive. That time has come for me, and I could not be more pleased to pass the baton of leadership to Vanita, a talented litigator, strategic visionary and tireless advocate who is deeply committed to building a country as good as its ideals, the mission of The Leadership Conference,” he added.

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