25th Anniversary

Ronald H. Brown American Journey Awards



The Ronald H. Brown American Journey Award was established in 2009 to honor outstanding Americans who exemplify the vision and transformative ideals of Ronald H. Brown (1941-1996). Ronald H. Brown American Journey Awards are granted to individuals who have developed opportunities and fostered the achievements of others. Like the late Ron Brown, these role models demonstrate through their life experiences the importance of mentoring, service and nurturance of a network of leaders in America. They embody the spirit of the Ron Brown Scholar Program mission and serve as models to which Scholars should aspire.

Hosted by

Abby Phillip
Senior Political Correspondent and
Anchor, Inside Politics Sunday, CNN


American Journey Award 2023 Honoree

Jack Leslie,
Former Chairman, Weber Shandwick​

American Journey Award for Emerging Leadership

Sheila R. Adams James,
RBS 2001,
Partner, Davis Polk & Wardwell LL

Robert B. Binswanger Communitarian Award

Julian D. Miller,
RBS 2003,
Senior Supervising Attorney for Children’s Rights, Southern Poverty Law Center

Christopher A. Pilaro Fellowship in the Arts

Aaliyah N. Williams,
RBS 1998,
Founder, Just A Rebel, Inc.,
Founding Partner, Manager and Producer, Adventure Media


Special thanks to our event sponsor

Ron Brown scholar program: Doing well by doing good

The program is named for Ron Brown, who became the nation’s first Black secretary of commerce during the Clinton administration in 1993. Three years later, Brown was killed in a plane crash …


Earvin “Magic” Johnson congratulates the RBSP on celebrating 25 years of changing lives and honors our Ron Brown Scholars. 


The Latest from Our Scholars, Programs and Impact

2410 Old Ivy Road, Suite 200, Charlottesville, VA 22903

434-964-1588 | info@ronbrown.org | www.ronbrown.org

© 2023 Ron Brown Scholar Program. All rights reserved.


Sheila R. Adams James

Ron Brown Scholar 2001
Partner, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Sheila is a partner in the Antitrust & Competition Group and Litigation Department of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP in New York.  Sheila represents clients in a variety of civil litigation and government investigations, and her practice focuses on antitrust investigations and litigation.  Her clients have included firms in the media and entertainment, technology, pharmaceutical, financial services and manufacturing industries, as well as individual corporate directors.  She has also devoted substantial time to representing individuals on a pro bono basis, including several military Veterans seeking disability benefits and a client who was granted clemency by President Barack Obama in January 2017.   In 2017, she was recognized for her pro bono work with the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Champion of Justice Award and Davis Polk’s Pro Bono Award.  In 2019, Sheila received a National Bar Association “40 Under 40 Nation’s Best Advocates” award, as well as one of the association’s five individual “40 Under 40” awards for Excellence in Leadership.  She is a Co-Chair of the Spring Meeting of the ABA Antitrust Law Section and a member of the Board of Directors of the Columbia Law School Association.  

Prior to joining Davis Polk, she served as a law clerk for the Honorable Raymond A. Jackson of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, and the Honorable Carl E. Stewart, former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  A native of Harlem and Washington Heights in New York City, Sheila is a first-generation college graduate who received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and law degree from Columbia Law School. 

Jack Leslie is Chairman of Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s leading public relations firms. He is a veteran communications strategist, having advised corporations and governments on high-profile campaigns over the past three decades. 

 Jack served as a senior aide to Senator Edward Kennedy in the late 1970s, and later became President of Sawyer Miller Group, a pioneer in the political media consulting business. In the 1980s, he served as political consultant and media advisor to dozens of candidates for U.S. Senate and Governor, and to presidential candidates in the U.S., Latin America, Africa and Asia. Political and business leaders alike have sought his counsel during significant crises, including American Airlines following the attacks of September 11th. He later testified before the House International Relations Committee on U.S. public diplomacy programs directed at the Muslim world. 

In 2009, Jack was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve as Chairman of the U.S. African Development Foundation. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Chairman of the U.S. Agency for International Development Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid, former Chairman of USA for UNHCR and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Duke Global Health Institute. Jack is a graduate of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. 

Julian D. Miller

Ron Brown Scholar 2003
Senior Supervising Attorney for Children’s Rights, Southern Poverty Law Center

Atty. Julian D. Miller is the Senior Supervisor Attorney for Children’s Rights practice at Southern Poverty Law Center, where he focuses on impact litigation and policy advocacy for issues of educational equity and children’s rights. He is also the Co-Founding Director of the Reuben V. Anderson Institute for Social Justice and Assistant Professor of Political Science at historic Tougaloo College. He is an advocate, educator,  and community activist who is committed to economic, social, and racial justice through grassroots-led efforts that would shift policy in a direction that would uplift all poor and working people.

He was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta region in Winstonville, MS. He matriculated at Harvard University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in government in 2007.  While at Harvard, he co-authored policy white papers addressing redistricting reform and poverty, taught politics and civics to inner-city kids in Boston, and was a staff writer for the internationally-published Harvard Political Review. During his junior year, he served as a policy director for a congressional campaign. After college, he returned home to the MS Delta to do anti-poverty and community development work there before entering law school.

He graduated from the University of MS School of Law in December 2012 with honors. He is served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Presiding Judge T. Kenneth Griffis, Jr. of the Mississippi Court of Appeals. He was formerly a senior associate attorney at some of the most prestigious law firms in Mississippi, where he successfully litigated several multi-million-dollar cases at the trial and appellate levels in complex governmental litigation, administrative, commercial litigation, products liability, and labor and employment matters in state and federal court.

He has  served as lead counsel and argued cases before the Mississippi Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, most recently arguing a first-of-its-kind special education matter on behalf of a disabled child in Mississippi. 

He is the founding director and adjunct professor of the Education Law & Policy Clinic at Mississippi College School of Law.  In that capacity, he works with law students, attorneys, and advocates to litigate on behalf of low-income public school students of color. He represent them in administrative matters, disciplinary hearings, youth court hearings, and special-education due-process matters across the state. Additionally, he engages in legislative policy advocacy and well as conduct impact litigation cases on issues of educational equity. He has drafted legislation to ban corporal punishment in Mississippi as well as to make school disciplinary and truancy statues compliant with federal special education law. He was also special counsel to the Office of Special Education of the Mississippi Department of Education.

For the past 15 years, however, his main focus has been developing anti-poverty projects in the areas of economic justice, public health equity, educational equity, and criminal justice equity that will have a transformational impact on public policy in Mississippi. He co-founded an organization called Delta Fresh Foods Initiatives that developed sustainable, community food systems throughout the Mississippi Delta as means of both food equity, public health equity and economic justice and interdependence. He parlayed that work into co-founding the Reuben V. Anderson Center for Justice, which was established to honor the life and legacy of Reuben V. Anderson, who was the first African-American graduate of the law school and the first African-American county court judge, circuit court judge, and Mississippi Supreme Court Justice.

The Center would be the first of its kind in Mississippi to address the intersection of race, poverty, educational inequity and economic injustice through grassroots community development projects, policy advocacy, and impact litigation. In partnership with Tougaloo College through the establishment of the Reuben V. Anderson Institute for Social Justice, he has raised several million dollars in grants to develop a worker-owned community food system on campus to address issues of economic and food justice; started the largest after-school mentoring, arts, and academic enrichment program serving local public-school students in the Jackson, MS area; implement a policy campaign in partnership with a statewide coalition of organizations to reform the TANF welfare grant program to support a State Earned Income Tax Credit for working families in Mississippi; lead a coalition of reentry services organizations to advocate for statewide criminal justice reform; and initiated a multi-million dollar NIH grant program to implement a food as medicine initiative to address preventative health and infant mortality in the Mississippi Delta.  Additionally, he founded the Bennie G. Thompson Delta Leadership Development Program at Tougaloo College. The program is working collectively with local organizers and social entrepreneurs, elected officials, and Tougaloo student fellows in three Delta counties (Bolivar, Coahoma, and Sunflower Counties) to develop sustainable, worker-owned food economies in those counties through leadership training, technical assistance, capacity mapping, strategic planning and implementation, and programmatic and policy evaluation. The project will create a replicable model for the development of sustainable food systems in Mississippi.

He chronicled some of his anti-poverty work in the Mississippi Delta in a chapter in a book entitled, Problem Solving for Better Health: A Global Perspective.  His most recent work is chronicled as part of an interview for a book entitled The Moment: Changemakers on Why and How they Joined the Fight for Social Justice published this past November. He also has other publications to his credit related to public policy and economic justice, most recently in an article for Non-Profit Quarterly discussing a statewide strategy in Mississippi to develop worker-owned cooperative-based food systems.  He serves as Chairman of the Board of Greater Jackson Arts Council, Secretary of the Board for the 100 Black Men of Jackson, and a board member of the Mississippi Food Policy Council along with several other organizations and non-profits. 

Aaliyah N. Williams

Ron Brown Scholar 1998
Founder, Just A Rebel, Inc.;
Founding Partner, Manager and Producer, Adventure Media

Aaliyah Williams is founding partner of Adventure Media where she manages emerging & established writers and directors. She is a Peabody Award nominated television & film producer whose credits include the series Gentefied & film Really Love (you can stream both on Netflix!). Williams launched Just A Rebel to create signature content that centers Black women and people of color—shifting the culture forward. The company’s first look deal at CBS Television Studios was renewed for a third year where Williams has several series in active development.

Just A Rebel’s feature film slate includes Tiffany Johnson’s (Mike, Black Monday) feature directorial debut THE LAST CLASS starring Marsai Martin based on the incredible true story of writer Kimberly Nicole Walker’s survival of a very special senior year of high school. Williams is currently in post on BLACK BARBIE: A DOCUMENTARY directed by Lagueria Davis and financed by LinLay Productions.

Originally from Arkansas and Oklahoma, Williams graduated from Harvard and is a 2023 UCLA School of Law MLS candidate. She is an active alum of Film Independent’s Project:Involve, Sundance, and the Ron Brown Scholar Program. Aaliyah can generally be found running around Los Angeles with her hilarious pit bull, Blue.

RBS Connect

An Online Resource Directory for Ron Brown Scholars, Captains and Alumni.  

  • Connect with other Scholars, Captains and Alumni
  • Post and Search for Jobs
  • View and Register for upcoming professional and social events
  • Access professional development resources and webinars, scholar news and more…


A limited number of rooms are available to be reserved at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill (400 New Jersey Avenue, NW) at the discounted rate of $209 (single or double) plus taxes. This rate will expire on February 24, 2023. To make your reservations, please visit: Hyatt or call 877-803-7534. Please mention you are booking under the Ron Brown Scholar Program courtesy room block.


  • Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill Valet: $46 (2-10 hours), $62 (24 hours)

  • Yotel Capitol Hill, 415 New Jersey Avenue, NW: $23 (1-10 hours)

  • America’s Square, 300 New Jersey Avenue, NW: $26 (2-10 hours)

25th Anniversary Event Countdown