Marlboro College

NewsJohn Podesta Citation

John Podesta, Doctor of Laws, Honorary

In a career spent in public service, you advocate for government as a tool of its citizens; a tool for educating our children and protecting our environment, for defending our freedom of expression and access to government information.

As an attorney fresh from Georgetown in the 1970s, you worked as a trial attorney for the Justice Department, taking on those who violated environmental protection laws. That experience seemed only to whet your appetite for further public service, and you went on to work for ACTION—a forerunner of Americorps, and then on Capitol Hill. Among your several positions in the U.S. Senate, you served as chief counsel to our own Senator Leahy, recruiting the Marlboro College president to be his chief of staff. Your effectiveness, drive, and political prowess were clear to Democrats and Republicans alike, and in 1998 you were named to a position that is often referred to as the second most powerful in America: chief of staff to the President of the United States.

You were in the West Wing for many of the high points of the Clinton presidency—the Good Friday Accords in Northern Ireland, the first federal budget surplus in 30 years, and the NATO victory in Kosovo. You were also there for its lowest point, offering the president the counsel that helped him to survive and rebound from impeachment.

And despite the cynical, partisan rancor represented by that moment in American history, you remain an optimistic, charismatic voice for the possibilities of our political process. Graduating from Knox College, you were shaped by the liberal arts. You embrace humor as a vehicle for sending a message, particularly to citizens of the demographic that is graduating here today, and have gone so far as to host a panel, including the likes of Drew Carey and Gary Trudeau, that investigated who is funnier—the left or the right.

You remind us that our government can only be a legitimate, effective tool of its citizens if it is chosen by an engaged, informed electorate. You are an expert in technology policy, the legislative process, copyright and encryption: both the public and your Georgetown University students benefit. And in your current position, leading what you call a “think tank on steroids,” you seek to engage us with ideas for doing things better. You remind us that a strong government does not rob its citizens of their rights in the name of national security, that the presence of terror does not justify the corrosion of our democracy. You remind us that as citizens we have the power to create the kind of future we want for our country, our economy, our environment, our children. And we thank you for that.

John Podesta, we are pleased to confer upon you the degree:
Doctor of Laws, Honorary

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