Deputy Assistant to the President Ja’Ron Smith is scheduled to speak at the 2020 GOP convention Thursday night.
While he’s less known than other Thursday night speakers like the president’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Smith has been called “my star” by President Trump in meetings, according to a profile by The New York Times.
The Republican convention was supposed to take place in Charlotte, N.C., but coronavirus concerns forced the event to go mostly remote as well. President Trump is set to give his acceptance speech from the White House on Thursday, the final day of the 2020 convention.
Here are four things to know about Smith:
1. He’s the highest-ranking Black official in the White House
Smith has been in his position since April 2019 and is the highest-ranking Black official in the White House, according to The New York Times. He worked in the White House and advised the president on urban policy prior to taking that role.
2. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio
Smith grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and recalls feeling ignored by elected leaders.
“In the community I came from, Republicans or Democrats didn’t show up unless it was an election year,” Smith told Cleveland.com in 2019. “And so, being there just to do the right thing is valuable, because at the end of the day, Republican or Democrat, some communities have continued to look the same. And we’ve been focused on trying to turn that around and create opportunity for all.”
3. He interned for former Rep. J.C. Watts
Smith realized his alignment with conservative values while interning for a well-known conservative, former Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla, according to Cleveland.com.
While working for Watts, who was the first Black person to win statewide office in Oklahoma, Smith realized “all Republicans weren’t racist and rich,” he told Cleveland.com.
4. He’s focused on criminal justice reform
Smith helped get the First Step Act, the legislation the Trump administration touts as its main accomplishment in criminal justice reform, passed in 2018.
Criminal justice and racial justice are not a new issue to him — back in 2012, when he was working in Congress, Smith and other congressional aides protested the shooting of Trayvon Martin on the U.S. Capitol steps, according to The New York Times.