On Wednesday, March 26, the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy at the Bush School of Government and Public Service had the privilege of hosting Mr. Ray LaHood, former US secretary of transportation, at the Institute’s 2015 ConocoPhillips White House Lecture Series. In recognition of his many years of exemplary public service and contributions to bipartisan leadership and policy analysis, the Mosbacher Institute also conferred on Mr. LaHood its Good Governance Award.
The program began with welcome remarks by Dr. Lori L. Taylor, director of the Mosbacher Institute. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, dean of the Bush School, welcomed Mr. LaHood to the stage to address a diverse audience of faculty, students, media representatives, and members of the community, who had gathered for the evening lecture in the George Bush Library and Museum. Mr. LaHood began his address by paying homage to the “gold standard of public service” rendered by former President George H. W. Bush and to the Bush School as an institution committed to fostering the spirit of public service. During his lecture, Mr. LaHood highlighted the importance of bipartisanship and compromise as crucial elements of effective governance. He urged the audience to demand that their representatives set aside ideological differences so they may pursue real progress by tackling glaring issues like infrastructure, immigration, and tax reform. He ended his remarks by highlighting the dangers of partisan conflict, but added that he is hopeful that in the next administration, whoever may be elected, there will be a fresh opportunity for cooperation in Washington that will “get things done.”
The presentation was followed by a conversation with Dr. Lori L. Taylor, who presented questions posed by the audience, and then engaged Mr. LaHood in a discussion of his insights on issues such as the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund and the federal gas tax.
Earlier in the day, Mr. LaHood met with students pursuing concentrations in public management and energy policy. During these candid and interactive meetings, Mr. LaHood spoke about public management, the challenges of heading a federal agency, the politics and economics of corporate fuel economy standards, and the future of electric and non-gas vehicles.
As secretary of transportation, Mr. LaHood oversaw an agency with more than 55,000 employees and a $70 billion budget in charge of air, maritime, and surface transportation. Secretary LaHood’s tenure was marked by landmark efforts to improve safety in various modes of transportation, ranging from aviation and rail to pipelines and automobiles. Under his leadership, improvements to America’s infrastructure included building and repairs to 350,000 miles of highway, 20,000 bridges, and 6,000 miles of rail track.
Students and faculty alike were very pleased to have in their midst such an influential public servant. The Mosbacher Institute is thankful to Mr. LaHood for taking the time to come to the Bush School and make this event possible.
Ray LaHood is the former US Department of Transportation Secretary.
With a 36-year career in public service, Secretary LaHood has extensive experience on major national policy issues, among them transportation and infrastructure. He served as the 16th Department of Transportation Secretary from 2009 to 2013 and quickly became known as a bipartisan leader and skilled conciliator in a highly partisan environment.
Secretary LaHood’s tenure was marked by landmark efforts to improve safety in every mode of transportation, from aviation and rail to pipelines and automobiles. Under his leadership, improvements to America’s infrastructure included building or replacing 350,000 miles of highway, repairing 20,000 bridges and renewing or constructing 6,000 miles of rail track. Secretary LaHood also achieved more stringent fuel efficiency requirements from automakers, took steps to address airline pilot fatigue and turned the problem of distracted driving into a national concern. As Secretary of Transportation, he oversaw an agency with more than 55,000 employees and a US$70 billion budget in charge of air, maritime and surface transportation.
Before heading the US Department of Transportation, Secretary LaHood served from 1995 to 2009 in the US House of Representatives on behalf of the 18th District of Illinois and also served on various House committees, among them the powerful House Appropriations Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. He served as chief of staff to US House Minority Leader Robert Michel from 1982 to 1994. He was director of the Rock Island County Youth Services Bureau from 1972 to 1974; chief planner of the Bi-States Metropolitan Planning Commission from 1974 to 1977; and district administrative assistant for US Congressman Tom Railsback from 1977 to 1982.
He is married to Kathy LaHood, and they have four children and eleven grandchildren.