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Ronald Thompson, Jr. was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up surrounded by the reality of poverty. His mother was the first in her family to graduate from high school and his father was formerly incarcerated. Despite this adversity, they worked hard to instill in him the value of a quality education, strong work ethic, and dedication to standing for one’s beliefs. Those values have been on display throughout Ronald’s academic career. He was an avid high school debater, winning the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Kappa Psi Chapter Debate Tournament in 2015 and the Great Communicator Debate Series Mid-Atlantic Regional Qualifier in 2016. He served as co-captain of the Dunbar High School Debate Team his sophomore and junior year, becoming the sole captain his senior year. Ronald capped off his high school debate career by making it to the quarterfinals of the Great Communicator Debate Series Nationals in 2016.
His involvement with the Great Communicator Debate Series brought him a newfound sense of pride. Although he did not walk away as champion, he left knowing that as a person of color from Southeast D.C. raised in a working class family, he could compete in a national debate tournament against students who didn’t grow up with the kinds of challenges he faced. The Great Communicator Debate Series and the Reagan Foundation became more than just a box he checked off for college -- it was a transformative experience that he attributes to helping him grow into a better version of himself. He has taken those values and his skill in debate to advocate for his community. In 2018 at the age of 20, Ronald ran for the post of Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, an unpaid elected post which provides residents with a direct voice to the Council of the District of Columbia and the various agencies that comprise the Executive Office of the Mayor. While he was not successful in his race, Ronald has continued to advocate on behalf of working-class Washingtonians, testifying before the D.C. State Board of Education, participating in the D.C. Young Democrats, and most recently advocating for safe streetscapes in D.C. After taking some time off from his studies, Ronald will be returning to Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Virginia in the fall, where he is working towards his associate degree in Political Science. Upon completion of his coursework at NVCC, Ronald plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from either Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans or Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
If you could say one word defines leadership what would it be?
Conviction. Leadership requires firmness in one’s ability to believe in what it is they are doing. Many people take the view that conviction in leadership means being boneheaded or myopic, but it is really that leaders have no doubt, they understand that their decision will have its critics and supporters, but at the end of it all, their decision was necessary and hopefully did more good than harm.
What does tomorrow mean for you?
Tomorrow is an opportunity for me to do better than I did the day before. We all make mistakes, we all stumble, but I believe that we are given the providential grace to do better than we did yesterday, and it is a waste of that opportunity to not try and do better.
Who helped you grow into the person you are today?
My parents, my siblings, and my closest friends (folks I call collectively family) have been integral in my growth. There have been countless times when I have felt that I was not enough, that my work was insufficient. They have constantly been there telling me that I am good enough. I look to them as examples when I wonder who and where I want to be in the world.
Can you name a person who has made a tremendous impact on you as a leader and why?
My grandmother has been my model of leadership for years. I watched her as a child, listened to her stories about how she advocated for her children at school. She inspired me to be tough, particularly for those who cannot speak up for themselves or who come from our background. I go to her when I have questions about how I should tackle advocacy or leadership.
What movie can you watch over and over again and not get tired of?
Dreamgirls and The Lion King. Can watch either on repeat for hours.