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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Named U.S. State Department Cultural Ambassador

Jan. 18, 2012

UCLA three-time consensus All-America men's basketball star and NBA all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been appointed to the role of global Cultural Ambassador of the U.S. Department of State, it was announced Wednesday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"I am excited and honored to serve my country as a Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State," said Abdul-Jabbar, who has focused his efforts after his NBA career on engaging youth through socially-minded projects and education. "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."

During a meeting between Abdul-Jabbar and Secretary Clinton, she reiterated the United States' strong commitment to educating and engaging young people worldwide and to using people-to-people diplomacy as a means to create opportunities for greater understanding.

Abdul-Jabbar said a good education serves as the primary gateway to people's ability to lead successful lives worldwide:

"In my opinion, education is the key to success. By learning about the various fields of opportunity, a person can find a way to getting a great job and being able to support a family and live a lifestyle that is made possible by steady well paying employment," he said. "Without a solid educational background, it's very difficult to move up the economic ladder of success. 'Knowledge is Power' is one of my favorite sayings because I believe education makes it possible to pursue the best things that life has to offer."

From January 22-28, he will travel to Brazil to meet with underserved youth in Salvador and Rio de Janeiro. As a Cultural Ambassador, Abdul-Jabbar will lead conversations with young people on the importance of education, social and racial tolerance, cultural understanding, and using sports as a means of empowerment. In addition, he will participate in basketball clinics with young people in both cities.

"The Bruin family is extremely proud of Kareem and his appointment to the State Department. He has dedicated his life, especially after his outstanding basketball career at the collegiate and professional level, to making a difference in the lives of others through education," said UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero. "He embodies the many qualities of a Bruin and our current student-athletes look to him and his contributions as a shining example of the success that can be achieved after college."

Since his retirement in 1989, Abdul-Jabbar has devoted himself to projects focused on African American history and socio-economic justice. His 2011 documentary "On the Shoulders of Giants" sought to highlight these issues. He has also launched the Skyhook Foundation, which works to improve children's lives through education and sports. In June 2011, Abdul-Jabbar was honored at the White House by President Barack Obama and received the Lincoln Medal from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The medal honors Abdul-Jabbar's commitment to education and equality which reflects the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln.

More information regarding Abdul-Jabbar's travel to Brazil will be forthcoming. He will continue his public service as a Cultural Ambassador throughout 2012. Information on upcoming trips will be released at a later date. Stay tuned for updates via Twitter at @ConnectStateGov.

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