Emory Report

Mar. 22, 1999

 Volume 51, No. 24

Former Cabinet member Robert Reich named this year's commencement speaker

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich will be this year's commencement speaker. Pending approval by the Board of Trustees, Reich and four others will be granted honorary degrees at Emory's 154th graduation exercises. "As our graduates set forth into the labor market I am certain they would find very appealing your insight into the state of labor and, in particular, the future of work," President Bill Chace wrote in his letter of invitation to Reich.

Currently University Professor and Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy at Brandeis University, Reich has distinguished himself as a strong proponent for American workers in his public and private careers. During his tenure in the first Clinton administration, the Department of Labor cracked down on unsafe working conditions, sought to abolish sweatshops in the United States and child labor throughout the world, advocated the successful passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, and was instrumental in raising the minimum wage for the first time since 1989.

"I have dedicated my life to ensuring that the economy works for everyone," Reich said upon his appointment to Brandeis. "A central tenet of my writing and the policies I put into place as Labor secretary is that our ability to thrive as a nation depends on the capacities of our people to work productively together, both as participants in an economy and as members of a society."

Reich is the author of seven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages. He has published more than 200 articles on the global economy, the changing nature of work and the importance of human capital. Undoubtedly, the insight and clever wit he demonstrated in his bestselling book, Locked in the Cabinet--a memoir of his years in the Clinton administration--and in his numerous television and radio appearances, will be on display at the May 10 ceremony.

Prior to his appointment as Labor secretary, Reich was a lecturer at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and was assistant to then-Solicitor General Robert Bork in the Ford administration. He also headed the policy planning staff of the Federal Trade Commission during the Carter presidency.

Reich's ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton extend back more than 30 years. He met the first lady when both were undergraduate student leaders--he at Dartmouth College, she at Wellesley College--and befriended Bill Clinton in 1968, when the two were sailing to England as Rhodes Scholars. He attended Yale Law School with Clinton as well.

Joining Reich as honorary degree recipients are Charles Yates, Wan-Sang Han, Leontine Kelly and Norman Borlaug.

A native Atlantan, Yates retired from his longtime career as a vice president for Atlantic Coast Line and Louisville & Nashville Railroads in 1973. It was then that he took up a second career as a volunteer, becoming president of the Atlanta Arts Alliance, which eventually became the Woodruff Arts Center. A friend of the late Atlanta Symphony Orchestra conductor and choral leader Robert Shaw since 1938, he was a member of the committee that recruited Shaw for the ASO. An accomplished amateur golfer, Yates followed his mentor Bobby Jones by only eight years in winning the 1938 British Amateur.

Korean scholar Han received his graduate degree in sociology from Emory in 1967. After postgraduate work he returned to South Korea to take a job at Seoul National University. There, Han increasingly shifted his focus to activism on behalf of democratic change at great personal and professional risk--he spent time in prison. After the South Korean political climate changed, he was elected president of the Korean Sociological Society in 1990 and served in 1993 as a cabinet member in one of the country's first democratic governments. He is currently president of the Korean University of the Air, a venture concerned with applying technology to distance learning in higher education.

Leontine Kelly taught public school for many years before entering the ministry. The first African-American woman elected to the episcopacy of the United Methodist Church, she began a path through the ranks of church administration when she was ordained deacon by the late Emory trustee emeritus Bishop William Cannon in 1972. Kelly received her MDiv from Union Theological Seminary in 1976 and served churches in the Virginia Annual Conference until 1984, when she was invited to stand for election outside her own district in the church's Western Jurisdiction. She served there as bishop of the San Francisco area until her 1992 retirement.

Borlaug received the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for work he performed in India and Pakistan to promote a "green revolution" in agriculture. Since 1985, the 84-year-old Borlaug has worked "tirelessly," in the words of former President Jimmy Carter, as director of The Carter Center's Sasakawa-Global 2000 program to increase crop yields in Africa. Said writer Gregg Easterbrook in The Atlantic Monthly: "Perhaps more than anyone else, Borlaug is responsible for the fact that throughout the postwar era, except in sub-Saharan Africa, global food production has expanded faster than the human population, averting the mass starvations that were widely predicted. The form of agriculture that Borlaug preaches may have prevented a billion deaths."

--Stacey Jones

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