Desmond Meade JD ’14 landed on Time magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People and was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow following his successful efforts to gain passage of a referendum in Florida that would restore voting rights to some 1.4 million ex-felons.
The initiative garnered a decisive majority, with citizens overwhelming saying “yes” to second chances, as Meade explains it. And the previously imprisoned, subject to “a lifetime ban on the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness” – as Meade describes their limited access to housing, jobs and other opportunities – could finally look forward to engaging in civil society.
It was a victory not only for a disenfranchised population but for a man who, through counseling and medical services, had found his way to rising above substance abuse, chronic homelessness and lockup to pursue education at the highest levels.
“When I got that [acceptance] letter from FIU, oh my God, it just broke me down. I thought it was poetic because this was the same community in which I was at my lowest. To be able to get accepted into this law school, I think, was so redeeming.”