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Former Senator Bob Kerrey, Co-Chair
President, The New School 

Bob Kerrey is president of The New School in New York City.

The New School is a university with eight schools serving the diverse educational needs of 8,000 undergraduate and graduate degree students and 15,000 continuing education students annually.

The New School emphasizes critical thinking and small class size. It has two liberal arts colleges: Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts, and The New School for Social Research, as well as an adult education college, The New School for General Studies, which provides continuing education and undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The liberal arts are enhanced by four visual and performing arts schools: Parsons The New School for Design, Mannes College The New School for Music, The New School for Drama, and The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. In addition, the university is home to Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy.

For 12 years prior to becoming president of The New School, Bob Kerrey represented the State of Nebraska in the United States Senate. Before that he served as Nebraska’s governor for four years.

As governor and senator, Bob Kerrey earned a reputation as a man who cares deeply about education and is willing to argue that the global economy places an urgent imperative on the United States to invest more of its resources in education. While emphasizing the need for accountability and performance, Gov. and Sen. Kerrey fought hard for spending on early childhood, K-12, post-secondary, and vocational education. Bob Kerrey firmly believes that public and private research efforts bring tremendous social and economic benefits.

Bob Kerrey also believes that democracy cannot thrive or survive unless citizens are prepared to do the work required, and are given the opportunity to participate. As governor and senator, he went to considerable efforts to show the citizens of Nebraska how they could best influence the legislative process.

Bob Kerrey stressed the need to build stronger communities and partnered with community leaders to build health care, child care, recreational, environmental, educational and other projects. He believes there are “win-win” possibilities in the bitter “development versus environment” conflicts, especially with the U.S. strengths in technology.

Bob Kerrey became an expert in U.S. intelligence, serving for eight years on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He immersed himself in the details of communication technologies and led the post-Aldrich Ames reforms of the federal intelligence agencies.

Bob Kerrey believes there are times when only the law can convert the idea of freedom into the reality of liberty. He believes that intolerance, illness and illiteracy still impede too many Americans in realizing their dreams. He believes in a woman’s right to choose and in civil rights for gays and lesbians, and expressed those beliefs in Nebraska with no apparent negative electoral impacts.

Bob Kerrey also believes we have an obligation to secure liberty for our posterity as much as for ourselves. Accordingly he became the Senate’s leading advocate of limiting the growth of mandatory spending, which threatens to impair our capacity for future investments. He introduced the first bi-partisan Social Security legislation in 1995 and re-introduced a broadly supported bill in 1999. He also introduced legislation which would make health care a right for all U.S. citizens and legal residents, as well as control the growing cost of all health care, including Medicare.

Bob Kerrey believes that we should make government of, by and for the people a priority. To that end he led the effort to reform the Internal Revenue Service in 1998 and participated with President George Herbert Walker Bush and President Clinton to balance the Federal budget.

Bob Kerrey believes the United States of America has an obligation to work with the rest of the world to expand economic and political opportunity. He supports free trade, foreign aid, and a reformed but active diplomatic effort, which includes full and active engagement through the United Nations. Among his proudest accomplishments was his role in the post cold war effort to resolve our conflict with Vietnam. This effort began with a commission on the status of U.S. POW/MIA’s and a negotiated end to the war in Cambodia, both of which became the foundation for a roadmap to normalization with Vietnam. What began as an initiative of President Bush in 1991 ended with President Clinton sending a former prisoner of war to Hanoi as our first ambassador.  

Educated in pharmacy at the University of Nebraska, Bob Kerrey served three years in the United States Navy. After his military service, he started a chain of restaurants and health clubs in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas.

In many ways The New School is an institution made for Bob Kerrey’s leadership. Bob Kerrey’s experience in politics has taught him the importance of the social research currently performed at the The New School for Social Research and Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy. Both New School Online University and the communication design investment and leadership at Parsons The New School for Design dovetail with his educational and public policy interests.

Coincidentally, the founder and first president of The New School, Alvin Johnson, was also from Nebraska. For Bob Kerrey, being president of The New School represents a chance to continue his passion for education and is a very hands-on educational opportunity. He has always been interested in the practical application of ideas. In his own words: “What I love is learning and helping others to do the same, especially when the learning requires hard work and a disciplined giving of individual attention that leads to discovery. We all underutilize our talents, in part because we are afraid, in part because the inertia of educational organizations discourages us from becoming excited when the ‘eureka’ moment arrives.”

Bob Kerrey is the author of When I Was A Young Man: A Memoir, published by Harcourt Books (May 2002). He served as a member of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, currently leads a five year writing challenge sponsored by The National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges, and is co-chair with Newt Gingrich of The National Commission for Quality Long-Term Care.

In May 2005 Bob Kerrey received the Robert L. Haig Award for Distinguished Public Service from the New York State Bar Association, and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from New York Law School.

He is married to Sarah Paley. The couple has a young son, Henry, who was born on September 10, 2001. Bob Kerrey’s children from a previous marriage are named Ben and Lindsey.

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