The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) named Florida A&M University (FAMU) graduate student Julian Coakley a 2014 “Advocate of the Year” at its national policy conference in Washington, D.C. The conference was held March 2-4.
Coakley, who is pursuing a Master of Applied Social Sciences with a concentration in public administration, was one of only six students to receive the award and the only student representing a historically black college or university (HBCU) among the group.
According to AIPAC, the “Advocate of the Year” award honors “inspiring individuals who demonstrate advocacy at its best and – with courage and conviction – exert a compelling influence on a national level.”
During the conference, Coakley was also selected out of 10,000 participating students and community activists to serve on the AIPAC national committee, a panel of approximately 150 advocates, activists and officials from around the nation.
“I was surprised to learn that I was nominated,” Coakley said, “and I was happy that I was able to represent and showcase FAMU amongst a national level of institutions.”
Coakley became active with AIPAC while serving as student body president at Florida Memorial University in undergrad. While working with students from various backgrounds and cultures, Coakley said he felt charged to ensure that HBCU students were educated about Israel and the need to advocate for the country.
According to Coakley, a native of Nassau, Bahamas, it was a recent visit to Israel that emboldened him to advocate for Israel on a larger scale.
“I visited Israel last year with AIPAC and I had the opportunity to tour an Ethiopian absorption center. I saw Ethiopian children, who were brought to Israel, being taken care of by Israel’s government and citizens and the children looked just like me,” he said. “That propelled and sparked my interest in wanting to work for a greater cause concerning Israel. Anytime a country takes care of people who look like me, I am going to support it and work hard to ensure that the U.S. continues to do so as well.”
Coakley credits much of his passion and worldview to his experiences at FAMU.
“Coming to FAMU has been an eye-opener for me,” said Coakley. “I appreciate coming because I have watched my cultural awareness grow tremendously.”
Upon completing his master’s degree, Coakley plans to pursue a Ph.D. in political science and eventually work as a lobbyist for education and issues of importance to the black community.