U.S. ambassador to speak at Livingstone College commencement

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 5, 2017

By Tanya Turner

Livingstone News Service

SALISBURY — U.S. Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook will be the speaker for Livingstone College’s 2017 commencement, to be held at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Appointed by former President Barack Obama as ambassador for international religious freedom, Cook is the first woman and African-American to hold the position.

Nominated by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Cook also served as a principal adviser to Obama. Her job was to represent the United States in 199 countries to support integrating religious freedom into foreign policy and security discussions. In more than 100 diplomatic engagements, Cook brought faith leaders and women together at the table to discuss religious freedom.

Johnson-Cook’ was chaplain of the New York City Police Department for 21 years, the first woman in that position.

Among her long list of “firsts,” Cook was the first woman president in the 102-year history of the Hampton Ministers Conference. It is the largest national gathering of African-American clergy in the world. She served as pastor for three New York congregations, including the Lunch Hour of Power, celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.

She says her passion is to enhance the role women play as leaders.

“My charge is in direct response to seeing first-hand the lack of access and the lack of women of color at corporate, political and diplomatic tables worldwide,” Cook said.

She has helped black, Latina and Asian women gain political and economic influence through connections, conversations and mentoring. She has given more than 3,000 speeches and expanded her work in the diplomatic corps.

Cook officiated the funeral service for her mentor and godmother, Coretta Scott King. She has addressed the United Nations General Assembly and UN Geneva. A frequent contributor to CNN, MSNBC and other major media, Cook also writes a column for Huffington Post and has written 13 books. She is a member of the Links Inc. and an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

Commencement exercises begin at 9 a.m. Saturday in Alumni Memorial Stadium at Livingstone College.