News Revelations

Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree sees ‘blessing’ despite Alzheimer’s

Charles Ogletree, Harvard Law School professor and member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, spoke during the bicentennial banquet hosted by the First Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church on July 5, 2016, the eve of the denomination’s 50th quadrennial General Conference in Philadelphia. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) A Harvard law professor who taught both President Obama and his wife, Michelle, told fellow members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church that his faith is helping him cope with a personal diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’ve made up my mind to be thankful for what I have rather than focus on what I may lose,” an emotional Charles Ogletree said Tuesday (July 6) in his bicentennial message at a banquet where 3,000 people kicked off the 50th quadrennial General Conference of the denomination in Philadelphia.

“Nothing but the grace of God and faith enables me to respond this way.”


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Ogletree, 63, said he was recently diagnosed by a neurologist.

“It was something I had not anticipated and I didn’t know how to respond to it,” he said. “I never imagined that things like my health would slow me down in such a dramatic way. It was, I must admit, a blessing.”

Ogletree commended AME officials for promoting well-being during the July 5-13 meeting by including morning walks and luncheons focused on health topics. He said he has learned that more than 5 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s and that number is increasing.

“Studies show that African-Americans are almost twice as likely as whites to develop the disease,” he said. “But, praise God, I made up my mind to be grateful despite the illness.”

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About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

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