A Conversation with
Governor, Virginia (2014-2018)
Chairman, Democratic National Committee (2001-2005)
Lisa Lerer (Moderator)
Fellow, The Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Harvard University
National Political Writer, The Associated Press
Welcome Remarks by
Director, Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School
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In November 2013 Terry McAuliffe was elected the 72nd Governor of Virginia. As, Governor, McAuliffe has focused on equality for all Virginians, enhancing quality of life, and building a new diversified economy that makes economic opportunity a right, not a privilege.
To keep Virginia competitive, McAuliffe implemented major economic development initiatives designed to strengthen the Commonwealth’s pro-business climate, ensure efficient investment in world-class infrastructure and develop a 21st century workforce capable of meeting the needs of emerging businesses and industries.
As Governor, McAuliffe conducted a record 35 trade missions, to dozens of countries, personally delivering Virginia’s calling card to business leaders around the globe. As a result, hundreds of thousands of jobs were created and more than $20 billion in capital investment to communities across the Commonwealth, which is billions more than any previous governor. He oversaw the unemployment rate dropping from 5.4% to 3.6% and initial unemployment claims fall to a 44 year low. Personal income rose 12.3% during his term of office.
Protecting the rights of all Virginians was always a top priority for McAuliffe. He successfully vetoed a record 120 bills that would have taken Virginia backward. In doing so, McAuliffe protected women’s access to health care, Virginia’s world-class education system, the environment, the integrity of our electoral system and kept more guns off the streets.
He made unprecedented progress on the restoration of civil rights to rehabilitated felons who have completed their sentences and paid their debt to society. During his tenure, McAuliffe restored the rights of more than 173,000 Virginians, more than any other governor in U.S. history.
Under the McAuliffe Administration, the Department of Juvenile Justice reduced its population in state-operated Juvenile Correctional Centers by nearly two-thirds. Virginia has boasted the lowest adult recidivism rate in the nation for the past two straight years.
McAuliffe won bipartisan support for a historic $1 billion investment in public education and higher education, the most in Virginia history. As a result of his actions, students saw the lowest tuition increase in 15 years. He also successfully secured passage of a law establishing a pay-for-performance workforce training program, the first of its kind in the Nation. Virginia became the first state in the nation to adopt computer science and computational thinking standards in its K-12 curriculum..
Virginia became the first state to be designated as employer of National Service.
He led the effort to make Virginia the first state in America to be certified to have functionally ended veteran homelessness. In addition, 30,000 veterans were hired through the Virginia Values Veterans program, a six-fold increase.
McAuliffe won bipartisan support for legislation to reduce gun violence in Virginia. It was the first comprehensive gun legislation to become law in 24 years.
McAuliffe was twice elected chairman of the Chesapeake Bay executive council. He took executive action and Virginia became the first Southern State to implement a carbon reduction program.
He served as Chairman of the National Governors Association, where he used that leadership position to assist states as they strengthen their cybersecurity policies and infrastructure.
McAuliffe worked to build a solid cyber ecosystem in Virginia where he created a cyber security commission charged with developing industry relevant recommendations. He was the first governor to take executive action to secure consumer transactions and the Commonwealth’s data. Virginia now has most cyber companies.
President Obama appointed McAuliffe to NGA’s Council of Governors to provide advice on national security matters. McAuliffe is now working with Former Attorney General Eric Holder to combat Republican gerrymandering through the efforts of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee as the State Engagement Chair.
He currently serves as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.
In politics and business, McAuliffe has worked with people from all walks of life and different political backgrounds. He entered National politics at the age of 23 as the national finance director for President Jimmy Carter. He was elected Democratic National Committee chairman in 2000 and served until 2005. He co-chaired President Bill Clinton's 1996 campaign for reelection and his 1997 Presidential Inauguration. He was also chairman of the 2000 Democratic National Convention and chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2008 Presidential Campaign.
McAuliffe and his wife Dorothy were married in 1988. They have five children.
The youngest child growing up in a middle class family, McAuliffe has been a lifelong entrepreneur. So, at age 14, he started a business paving driveways for neighbors and local businesses. Since then, he has worked with and led dozens of businesses in diverse sectors of the economy helping to improve companies and create economic opportunity.
Lisa Lerer is a national political writer at The Associated Press, where she was a lead reporter covering the 2016 U.S. presidential race and its aftermath. She has reported in Washington for 10 years, covering the White House, elections, Congress and lobbying for the AP, Politico, Businessweek and Bloomberg News. Her work has also been published in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Slate, Fortune and The American Lawyer, where she covered business and legal issues. She has reported from 45 of the 50 U.S. states. Lerer is studying how distrust of major societal institutions is reshaping American politics.
Mark Gearan became the 19th director of the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government on March 1, 2018. A leading voice at the intersection of education and public service, Mark has held numerous leadership roles in American politics, government, and education.
From 1999-2017, Mark served as the President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS), becoming the longest-serving president in HWS history. During his tenure, Mark oversaw an era of unprecedented growth that included doubling the Colleges’ endowment, a capital plan which raised $205 million to support facilities, endowment and annual giving, establishing 168 new endowed scholarships, and the completion of 80 significant capital projects. Following his time at HWS, Mark held an appointment as President-in-residence at HGSE for the 2017-2018 academic year.
In September 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed Mark as the 14th Director of the Peace Corps, after serving in senior positions in the Clinton White House. While Director, Mark oversaw the expansion of the Peace Corps program into South Africa, India, and Haiti as well as the establishment of the Crisis Corps, which would send former Peace Corps volunteers into crisis areas for six months or less to help during emergencies.
President Clinton said of Gearan: “One of the best personnel decisions I have made as President was to appoint Mark Gearan as the Director of the Peace Corps. I believe he has been one of the most successful Directors since President Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961. He has rejuvenated the Peace Corps, and demonstrated a deep commitment to its legacy of service and the women and men who serve as Peace Corps volunteers. He can be proud that the Peace Corps will soon have more volunteers serving overseas than at any time in a generation."
Mark has served in a variety of roles in American politics and government including White House Communications Director, White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Vice Presidential Campaign Manager for Clinton/Gore ’92, Executive Director of the Democratic Governor’s Association, Headquarters Press Secretary for Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis’s 1988 presidential campaign, Chief of Staff for U.S. Representative Berkley Bedell of Iowa, and a reporter for the Fitchburg, Massachusetts Sentinel and Enterprise.
Mark’s first taste of politics came as an IOP intern in the Washington, DC office of Massachusetts’s Congressman Robert Drinan, S.J.
He is the Vice Chair for National and Public Service of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service; and is a past chair of the Board of Directors of both National Campus Compact and the Corporation for National and Community Service. Mark also sits on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Standing Committee for Public Service.
Born in Gardner, Massachusetts, Mark attended Gardner High School. He earned an A.B. in government cum laude at Harvard University in 1978 and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1991. He is the recipient of 13 honorary degrees. Mark is married to Mary Herlihy Gearan and they have two daughters, Madeleine, Harvard ‘15 and Kathleen, HWS ’21.
Follow Mark on Twitter at @MarkDGearan