The Mary Elizabeth Babcock Lectureship in the American Conservative Tradition welcomes the former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker presenting a lecture, “Reflections of a Public Servant.”
James A. Baker III epitomizes the definition of a “public servant.” He worked for the American public for nearly two decades in senior government positions under three Presidents of the United States. Baker was the 61st U.S. Secretary of State from January 1989 through August 1992 under President George H.W. Bush. While at the State Department, he traveled to 90 foreign countries as our country confronted both the challenges and opportunities of the post-Cold War era. His reflections on those years of revolution, war and peace are reflected in his book, The Policy of Diplomacy, published in 1995. His memoir, Work Hard, Study ... and Keep Out of Politics! Adventures and Lessons from an Unexpected Public Life, was published in October 2006.
He served as the 67th secretary of the Treasury from 1985 to 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. In this position, he was also chairman of the President’s Economic Policy Council. From 1981 to 1985, he was White House chief of staff to President Reagan. His record of public service began in 1975 as under secretary of commerce to President Gerald Ford and was concluded with his service as White House chief of staff and senior counselor to President Bush from August 1992 until January 1993. Baker led presidential campaigns for Presidents Ford, Reagan, and Bush over the course of five presidential elections from 1976 to 1992.
Born in Houston in 1930, he graduated from Princeton University in 1952. After two years of active duty as a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, he entered the University of Texas School of Law at Austin, and earned his J.D. with honors in 1957. He practiced law with the Houston firm of Andrews and Kurth from 1957 to 1975. Baker received the Medal of Freedom in 1991 and has received Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson Award, the American Institute for Public Service’s Jefferson Award, Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Award, the Department of State’s Distinguished Service Award, and numerous honorary academic degrees.
He is currently senior partner in the law firm of Baker Botts and is honorary chairman of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. In 2006, Baker and former U.S. Congressman Lee H. Hamilton served as co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan blue ribbon panel that recommended a forward-looking approach to Iraq. He and his wife Susan currently reside in Houston, and have eight children and 17 grandchildren.
Denison and Harvard alumna Mary Elizabeth Babcock, who died in June 1998, had a lifelong interest in education, government and politics. She engaged in a wide range of charitable, educational and community interests in Johnstown, Ohio, and throughout Licking and Franklin counties for many years.
In 1981, she established the Mary Elizabeth Babcock Lectureship in the American Conservative Tradition at Denison University. Since then, her generosity has enabled students and community members to hear William F. Buckley Jr., James J. Kilpatrick, George F. Will, Zbigniew Brzezinski, David R. Gergen, Robert D. Novak, Richard L. Thornburgh, Jack Kemp, Robert H. Bork, Robert J. Dole, J.C. Watts, Torie Clarke, Dee Dee Myers, Christine Todd Whitman, Norman J. Ornstein, Thomas E. Mann, Bill Bradley, and Newt Gingrich.