David Lawrence Jr.: A Champion for Children

After participating in a state commission for education, Lawrence dedicated his life to improving early childhood education.

David Lawrence Jr.

David Lawrence Jr., former publisher of the Miami Herald, has made strides to improve early childhood education.

By Stefanie Cainto (BSJ’13)

David Lawrence Jr. (BSJ ’63) retired from a career he loved to become a full-time advocate for a better educational system.

After 36 years in the publishing industry, he left his job as publisher of the Miami Herald in 1999 because he wanted to become more involved in early childhood education.

“There ought to be more than one chapter in life,” says Lawrence, who lives in Coral Gables.

He is president of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, chair of The Children’s Movement of Florida and an Education and Community Leadership Scholar at the University of Miami’s School of Education & Human Development. He is also founding chair of The Children’s Trust and co-founder of a non-profit vocational school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Although he serves on several education boards across the country, Lawrence’s initiatives are centered on Miami-Dade County. He notes that Miami-Dade holds 1/7 the population of Florida. The county population alone is larger than that of 15 states and the District of Columbia, according to the 2012 population estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau.

“The best you can be in this world is be a good example of what can be done, so my work does first focus on my own community,” he says.

Lawrence’s interest in early childhood education started when he was invited by then-Gov. Lawton Chiles to participate in the Governor’s Commission on Education in 1996.

The commission was composed of 55 citizens of Florida, all invited by the governor, to evaluate the state’s education system. Lawrence ended up chairing the force on school readiness.

Raised on a farm with eight siblings, Lawrence grew up with the mentality that it was either public education or nothing else. He went to Manatee High School in Bradenton then attended the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications.

“I feel blessed all my life to have gone to the University of Florida,” he says.

Lawrence graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and served as a reporter, news editor, managing editor, executive editor and publisher for several publications. During his 10-year tenure at the Miami Herald, the newspaper won five Pulitzer Prizes.

Today, Lawrence focuses on making children a higher priority in the country and giving them a better education during their early years.

“Get those years right, and children usually will have momentum all their lives,” he says.

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