U.S. Drafts Abdul-Jabbar for New Post

Judy Hartnett's picture
Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s life has been a case study in the art of the possible, from his humble Harlem roots to N.B.A. fame and through his life after basketball as a historian and scholar. His next endeavor will draw on all of it.

Abdul-Jabbar was named a United States cultural ambassador Wednesday, with a mission of promoting education, racial tolerance and cultural understanding among young people around the world. He leaves Sunday for a six-day assignment in Brazil and will visit at least four more countries this year.

“It’s a great opportunity for me, just to connect with them on these issues and present some insights into what is possible and what has happened here in America,” Abdul-Jabbar said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon.

Abdul-Jabbar’s appointment was announced by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a brief ceremony earlier in the day. He is the first sports figure to be named a cultural ambassador during the Obama administration.

Brazil provides an intriguing first assignment. The country has the largest population of blacks outside of Africa, and race relations are tense, Abdul-Jabbar said.

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