Ableson Religious Reconciliation Lecture

About the Lecture

Named for Bradford Edward Ableson—USAO Alumni Hall of Fame member, U.S. Navy Captain, visionary in religious reconciliation and an architect of modern military chaplaincy—this series features religious and cultural leaders who have contributed to communication across communities.


Reginald Dwayne Betts
Tuesday, October 24, 2023 | 7 p.m.
USAO Ballroom, Student Center

This event is free, but registration is required. 

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Portrait of Reginald Dwayne Betts, lit in blue, with an orange background

Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. A 2021 MacArthur Fellow, he is the Executive Director of Freedom Reads, a not-for-profit organization that is radically transforming the access to literature in prisons through the installation of Freedom Libraries in prisons across this country.

Betts transformed himself from a 16-year-old kid sentenced to nine years in prison to a critically acclaimed writer and graduate of the Yale Law School. 

For more than 20 years, he has used his poetry and essays to explore the world of prison and the effects of violence and incarceration on American society. The author of a memoir and three collections of poetry, he has transformed his latest collection of poetry, the American Book Award winning “Felon,” into a solo theater show that explores the post incarceration experience and lingering consequences of a criminal record through poetry, stories, and engaging with the timeless and transcendental art of paper making.

In 2019, Betts won the National Magazine Award in the Essays and Criticism category for his NY Times Magazine essay that chronicles his journey from prison to becoming a licensed attorney. He has been awarded a Radcliffe Fellowship from Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Emerson Fellow at New America, and most recently a Civil Society Fellow at Aspen. Betts holds a J.D. from Yale Law School.

The Brad Ableson Scholarship

In addition to annually sponsoring a speaker in religious reconciliation and tolerance, the Brad Ableson Chair awards one student annually who has demonstrated academic excellence, financial need, and a commitment to the cosmopolitan vision of Brad Ableson. The scholarship is for the final two years of a student’s time at USAO and totals up to $5,000 per year. 

Apply online

About Bradford Edward Ableson

U.S. Navy Chaplain Bradford E. Ableson dedicated his adult life to the service of God and his country. As a captain in the Navy and an Episcopal Priest, he traveled the globe many times caring for the needs of his shipmates. Ableson graduated magna cum laude from the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma in 1980. He later earned a master of theology degree from Boston University School of Theology, a master of divinity degree from Yale University Divinity School and a doctor of ministry degree from Columbia Theological Seminary. Subsequently, he graduated with distinction from the United States Naval War College. In 2008 he received the Lux et Veritas distinguished alumnus award from Yale. In the Navy, Ableson served with U.S. Marine Corps units, in surface ships, in the Navy’s largest submarine squadron and as command chaplain of aircraft carrier USS George Washington. He qualified for the Veterans of Foreign Wars five times. Ashore, Ableson served as chaplain for President Bill Clinton at Camp David and as an executive officer to the Navy Chief of Chaplains. As command chaplain of the U.S. Strategic Command, he pioneered global religious reconciliation initiatives that continue to sow seeds of peace in war-torn areas. Ableson worked toward equality issues in the military and was the primary mover behind a series of Navy-wide heritage celebrations that continue to be observed throughout the fleet. He was the architect behind the transformation of the chaplaincy from an institution focused almost wholly on the pastoral needs of personnel to one that embraces senior chaplains as agents of reconciliation with religious leaders around the globe.