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Adeel Zeb gives the 2017 Poynter lecture in the Kay Chapel

Annual R. Bruce Poynter Lecture

Every year, the Kay Spiritual Life Center hosts a lecturer who exemplifies the highest ideals of compassion and justice for a world in travail. These speakers and lectures make up the Bruce Poynter Lecture Series, named for former University Chaplain R. Bruce Poynter.

Looking Back 2019 Lecture

On April 24, 2019, we welcomed Vanita Gupta as our Annual Poynter Lecturer.

Vanita Gupta is president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. Before joining The Leadership Conference in June 2017, Gupta served as Acting Assistant Attorney General and head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Appointed in October 2014 by President Barack Obama as the chief civil rights prosecutor for the United States, Gupta oversaw a wide range of criminal and civil enforcement efforts to ensure equal justice and protect equal opportunity for all during one of the most consequential periods for the division. Under Gupta’s leadership, the division did critical work in a number of areas, including advancing constitutional policing and criminal justice reform; prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking; promoting disability rights; protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals; ensuring voting rights for all; and combating discrimination in education, housing, employment, lending, and religious exercise.

Prior to joining the Justice Department, Gupta served as Deputy Legal Director and the Director of the Center for Justice at the American Civil Liberties Union, where she launched the Smart Justice Campaign to end mass incarceration. She joined the ACLU in 2006 as a staff attorney. Gupta began her legal career at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, where she litigated a series of landmark wrongful drug conviction cases in Tulia, Texas. Gupta graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and received her law degree from New York University School of Law, where later she taught a civil rights litigation clinic for several years.

Prior Poynter Lecturers

  • 2017-2018: Joshua Dubois, "Community Partnerships: Religion in the Public Square"
  • 2016-2017: Imam Adeel J. Zeb, "The Muslim-American Experience in 2016"
  • 2015-2016: Maria Elena Salinas, "The Latino Voice in America"
  • 2014-2015: Rashad Robinson, "Building the Momentum for Change"
  • 2013-2014: Zeenat Rahman, "The Youth Bulge as a source of security or opportunity"
  • 2012-2013: Heather McGhee, from Demos, "Inequality and Diversity in the United States"
  • 2011-2012: Rep. Tammy Baldwin, "LGBT Rights as Human Rights"
  • 2010-2011: Janet Murguia, CEO of National Council of LaRaza, "The Future of Latino Civil Rights"
  • 2009-2010: Marian Wright Edleman, "Children's Rights"
  • 2008-2009: The Hon. Ron Dellums, "Eradicating Poverty, Violence, and Injustice"
  • 2007-2008: The Hon. John Lewis, "The Struggle for Civil Rights"
  • 2006-2007: Dick Gregory, "Advancing the Struggle for Nonviolent Social Change"
  • 2005-2006: Rev. Dr. Jim Forbes, Senior Pastor of the Riverside Church, "The Mandate for Prophetic Justice"
  • 2004-2005: Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize winning Historian, "Promise and Myth of Democracy: Brown Plus 50 Years"
  • 2003-2004: Dr. William Sloane Coffin, Pastor Emeritus at Riverside Church and former Yale Chaplain, "U.S. and Iraq and Nuclear Weapons"
Photo of Bruce Poynter

The Rev. R. Bruce Poynter was American University’s University Chaplain from 1969 to 1985, and served as Vice President of Student Life from 1973 until his departure from the University in 1985.

Read Poynter's History of Kay