Jan 18, 2012, 2:36 PM EDT
Few people can represent both the diversity and opportunity in the United States like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
So he makes an interesting and smart choice as a United States Global Cultural Ambassador, something Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton named him on Wednesday, the White House announced.
He will soon be going to Brazil in his new role, trying to strengthen already strong cultural bonds with the land of Renaldo and Nene. Next week he will be there meeting with some of the less well off youth of that nation and discuss the importance of education, social and racial tolerance, cultural understanding, and using sports as a means of empowerment. Of course, there will also be basketball clinics, Kareem is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, six-time NBA champion, six-time MVP, 19-time All-Star, owner of the most devastating shot in the history of the game, and the man behind a legendary movie role as co-pilot Rodger Murdoch.
“I am excited and honored to serve my country as a Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State,” said Abdul-Jabbar in a released statement. “I look forward to meeting with young people all over the world and discussing ways in which we can strengthen our understanding of one another through education, through sports, and through greater cultural tolerance.”
Kareem is a complex person, not one that fits neatly into our predefined boxes of what a sports star should be. That rubs some people the wrong way, and he is not by his nature a person who loves the public spotlight on his private life. But he is a person committed to the promotion of education. He’s an author, helped make a documentary about the Harlem Rens — combining his love of African-American history and hoops — and is a man who has taken advantages of the opportunities granted him to live a full and interesting life. To me, that makes him a great ambassador of our American culture.