Jeff Copeland, 39, was thrust into the spotlight yesterday when President Obama met with him and then mentioned him by name as an example in his address to the NAACP national convention in Philadelphia, says the Philadelphia Daily News. The president also met with three other ex-offenders. Copeland says he kicked the drinking habit that led him to six DUI arrests, the most recent of which, in 2009, put him away for 18 months. He will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Temple University in December.
The Philadelphia mayor’s office “asked me to find a student who was making great strides in post-release success,” said Tara Timberman of the Re-entry Support Project of Community College of Philadelphia’s Fox-Rothchild Center for Law and Society. “Right away, I thought of Jeff.” Obama’s discussion with the ex-inmates was equal parts serious and silly, with thoughtful debates about prison policy interspersed with banter about basketball: Copeland, noting that five men were sitting together, offered to take Obama down to a court in South Philly, where he “was sure we could find five guys to take us on.” What Obama really wanted to know was what had brought the men to that room, the experiences that had forged them.