There is something to be said for earning one’s existence. While there’s a place for both personal ambition and idealistic aspiration, the former must always be in service of the latter. I want to know that more people are living long, healthy, fulfilling lives because I was born.
Director of PolicyChicago Department of Public Health
Jesse Lava’s first act of public service was writing a letter at age 5 to President Ronald Reagan, asking him to stop harming children in Nicaragua. He intentionally used crayon to win sympathy points. That letter didn’t change the world, but this pairing of idealism and strategy has animated Jesse’s career in promoting social equity. He is the director of policy at the Chicago Department of Public Health, where he creates laws and other initiatives to improve residents’ health in areas ranging from tobacco to heroin to environmental justice. He previously ran a national media campaign for criminal justice reform, did communications for nonprofits, founded an organization for religious progressives, and campaigned for political candidates.
He earned his bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University and a Master in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School.