AAJA’s 30th Annual Gala Scholarship & Awards Banquet
to Feature Congressman John Lewis, Actor George Takei, and Rappler Founder Maria Ressa

Sat., August 3, 2019 | 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm | Loews Atlanta Ellington Ballroom


AAJA’s 2019 national convention will culminate in our 30th annual Gala Scholarship & Awards Banquet the evening of Saturday, Aug. 3 at the Loews Atlanta Hotel. We are proud to announce that the gala banquet will feature two armchair conversations with Congressman John Lewis and Actor George Takei.

The first conversation with Congressman Lewis, moderated by CBSN Anchor Elaine Quijano, will discuss, among other topics: the 50-year anniversary of the death of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.; the current civil-rights struggles of present day; Congressman Lewis’ experiences in the movement; the role that the media played in the tide of the civil rights movement; and the role of journalists in ensuring fair and accurate portrayals of all communities of color in media coverage.

The second conversation with Takei, moderated by ABC News “Nightline” Co-Anchor Juju Chang, will discuss, among other topics: his family’s experiences in a Japanese American internment camp during WWII and how they shaped his life, his career, and his storytelling; the importance of diverse perspectives in news and history; and his insights for current generations of journalists and storytellers when confronted with difficult and divisive themes.

Veteran journalist and Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa will be our closing speaker, offering perspectives on the challenges to journalism in a time of disinformation. Maria has been a leading voice in the defense of press freedom in the Philippines and around the world.

To register for AAJA’s 2019 national convention, or to buy a standalone ticket to the gala banquet, click here. The deadline to register or buy a gala ticket online is Wednesday, July 24.

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About John Lewis


Often called "one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced," John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls "The Beloved Community” in America. His dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principles has won him the admiration of many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the United States Congress. He has been called "the conscience of the U.S. Congress,” and Roll Call magazine has said, "John Lewis...is a genuine American hero and moral leader who commands widespread respect in the chamber.”

During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, from 1963 to 1966, Lewis was named Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped form. SNCC was largely responsible for organizing student activism in the Movement, including sit-ins and other activities.

In 1964, John Lewis coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer. The following year, Lewis helped spearhead one of the most seminal moments of the Civil Rights Movement. Hosea Williams, another notable Civil Rights leader, and John Lewis led over 600 peaceful, orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965. They intended to march from Selma to Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state. The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as "Bloody Sunday." News broadcasts and photographs revealing the senseless cruelty of the segregated South helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. After leaving SNCC in 1966, he continued his commitment to the Civil Rights Movement as Associate Director of the Field Foundation and his participation in the Southern Regional Council's voter registration programs. Lewis went on to become the Director of the Voter Education Project (VEP). Under his leadership, the VEP transformed the nation's political climate by adding nearly four million minorities to the voter rolls.


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About George Takei


George Takei is best known for his portrayal of Mr. Sulu in the acclaimed television and film series Star Trek. He's an actor, social justice activist, social media mega-power, originated the role of Sam Kimura and Ojii-Chan in the Broadway musical Allegiance, and subject of To Be Takei, a documentary on his life and career.

Takei's acting career has spanned five decades, with more than 40 feature films and hundreds of television guest-starring roles to his credit. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Actors' Equity Association, and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

With the outbreak of World War II, Los Angeles, California-born Takei and his family were placed behind the barbed-wire enclosures of United States internment camps along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans. He spent most of his childhood at Camp Rohwer in the swamps of Arkansas and at wind-swept Camp Tule Lake in northern California. At the end of the war, Takei's family returned to their native Los Angeles.

Now a community activist, Takei serves as chair of the council of governors of East West Players, the nation's foremost Asian Pacific American theater. He is also a member of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender political organization. Takei is Chairman Emeritus of the Japanese American National Museum's Board of Trustees; a member of the US-Japan Bridging Foundation Board of Directors; and served on the Board of the Japan-United States Friendship Commission under President Bill Clinton. In recognition of his contribution to the Japan-United States relationship, in 2004, Takei was conferred with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, by His Majesty, the Emperor of Japan.


About Maria Ressa

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Maria has been a journalist in Asia for more than 30 years. She was CNN’s bureau chief in Manila then Jakarta, and became CNN’s lead investigative reporter focusing on terrorism in Southeast Asia. She authored two books – Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of al-Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia and From Bin Laden to Facebook.

In 1987, Maria co-founded independent production company, Probe. In 2005, she managed ABS-CBN News and Current affairs, the largest multi-platform news operation in the Philippines. Her work aimed to redefine journalism by combining traditional broadcast, new media and mobile phone technology for social change.  

The CEO and Executive Editor of Rappler, Maria co-founded the company in 2012 and helped turn it into one of the most influential and innovative news organizations in the Philippines.

Maria has been honored around the world for her courageous and bold work in fighting disinformation, “fake news” and attempts to silence the free press. In 2018, she won the prestigious Golden Pen of Freedom Award from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-INFRA), the Knight International Journalism Award of the International Center for Journalists, the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Journalist of Courage and Impact Award of East-West Center, and the IX International Press Freedom Award of University of Málaga and UNESCO, among others.

In December 2018, Maria was named Time 'Person of the Year,' and most recently was chosen as among "Time 100" most influential people of 2019. In today's age of disinformation, Maria is a dominant voice in the battle for truth and the defense of press freedom in the Philippines and around the world. 


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About Elaine Quijano


Elaine Quijano is an anchor for CBSN, the CBS News 24-hour digital streaming network, and a correspondent for CBS News contributing to all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. In her role at CBSN, Quijano anchors weekday coverage and hosts the nightly politics show "Red and Blue." She also anchors the Sunday edition of "CBS Weekend News," and her reporting is regularly featured on "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News."

Quijano led political coverage on CBSN throughout the 2016 presidential campaign and anchored CBSN coverage of primary, debate and political convention nights. Most notably, Quijano was named moderator for the 2016 vice presidential debate, marking the first time an anchor from a digital network would moderate a national debate in a general election campaign.   

Based in New York, Quijano is a versatile correspondent, equally adept at covering breaking news and human interest stories. Moreover, her deep journalism background includes covering the White House, the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

Prior to joining CBS News, she worked for CNN as a Washington, D.C.-based correspondent. While there, she reported from various beats, including the White House, the Pentagon and the Supreme Court. Quijano was named a White House correspondent for CNN in 2006 and covered the administrations of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. During that time, she reported on the Bush administration's war on terror, his failed push for comprehensive immigration reform and the financial crisis that emerged in the fall of 2008. She also traveled around the world, visiting a host of cities, including Kabul, Afghanistan, Islamabad, Pakistan and Beijing, China. Before being named a White House correspondent, she covered Bush's 2004 reelection campaign and the campaign of vice presidential candidate John Edwards.


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About Juju Chang


Juju Chang is an Emmy Award-winning co-anchor of ABC News’ “Nightline.” She also reports regularly for “Good Morning America” and “20/20.” Chang has been recognized for her in-depth personal narratives set against the backdrop of pressing national and international news. Her exclusive television interview with transgender solider Chelsea Manning, after seven years in prison, explored issues of national security leaks and LGBTQ military service. Her profile of former firefighter Pat Hardison – after a groundbreaking face transplant – highlighted the crisis of organ donation. Additionally, Chang anchored a special edition of “Nightline,” “Consent on Campus,” from Penn State which tackled complex issues surrounding sexual assault.

Chang has also covered major breaking news for decades for ABC News, including Superstorm Sandy, the Orlando nightclub massacre and the Boston Marathon bombing.  She has traveled around the world to report on global issues including a three-country trip through Central Africa on the front lines against Boko Haram in the latest on #bringbackourgirls, and to Honduras for “Femicide: the Untold War,” an eye-opening look at rampant violence against women. 

Chang has profiled newsmakers like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, former Vice President Joe Biden and Oprah Winfrey as well as entertainers like Chris Pratt, Channing Tatum, and Nicki Minaj. Her extensive feature reporting covers parenting dilemmas, digital addictions and social media moguls like Dude Perfect and Esther the Wonder Pig.

A former news anchor for “Good Morning America,” Chang joined ABC News as an entry level desk assistant in 1987 and rose to become a producer for “World News Tonight.” Her first on-air job was reporting for KGO-TV in San Francisco. After a year in Washington, D.C. covering the White House, Capitol Hill and the presidential election for NewsOne, she co-anchored the overnight show “World News Now.” Chang’s work has been recognized with numerous awards including multiple Emmy’s, Gracie’s, a DuPont, a Murrow and Peabody awards.

Born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Northern California, Chang graduated with honors from Stanford University with a B.A. in political science and communication. She is married to WNET President and CEO Neal Shapiro and together they have three sons. Chang is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a founding board member of the Korean American Community Foundation.