Janet Napolitano
Janet Napolitano

American Jewish Committee's (AJC) Los Angeles and San Francisco offices presented outgoing University of California President Janet Napolitano with the Marlene Bane Distinguished Public Service Award in recognition of her “remarkable and unparalleled career in public service.”

The newly established award is named in honor of Marlene Bane, a third-generation member of AJC, pillar of the Los Angeles Jewish community, and tireless advocate for democratic values.

Napolitano is the 20th president of the University of California and the first woman to serve in this role. She previously served as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security (2009 to 2013), Governor of Arizona (2003 to 2009), Attorney General of Arizona (1998 to 2003), and U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona (1993 to 1997).

In opening the virtual ceremony, AJC Los Angeles Regional Director Richard Hirschhaut congratulated Napolitano for her years of distinguished public service, noting that it was “fitting that this award would be conferred within days of the passing of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, whose steady exhortation to cause ‘good trouble’ is so brightly reflected in your lifetime of achievement.”

AJC LA Regional President Marc Graboff affirmed AJC’s commitment to racial justice, noting that “in this national moment of reflection and agitation for racial justice, AJC has redoubled its efforts to fight for an America in which all people are equal, regardless of race, color or religion.”

Scott Edelman, AJC LA Board Chairman, lauded Marlene Bane for her “decades of unwavering commitment to the public good” and “lifetime of service to bettering the lives of the people of California.”

In presenting the award, Debra Saidoff, Chair of AJC Project Interchange (PI), thanked Napolitano, a Project Interchange alumnus, for her “lifetime of devotion to public service, work to ensure the safety of the American public and educational opportunity for people worldwide, and unwavering friendship to the Jewish people.”

“I am deeply honored and humbled to receive this award. Public service, and the desire to do good on behalf of others, has been a common thread throughout my career, said President Napolitano in accepting the award. “AJC’s work to combat antisemitism, to promote mutual understanding, to identify and root out terrorism wherever it occurs, and to improve our global security through education and diplomacy is essential to our continued progress as a society.”     

The AJC virtual event also featured a special video tribute to Napolitano, featuring former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former Senator Barbara Boxer and other notable figures. The video can be viewed by clicking here.


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