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Economist Gene Sperling to Speak at Business School Commencement

Gene Sperling speaks about the 2008 election at an event. Photo courtesy Center for American Progress.

The Kogod School of Business is pleased to announce the selection of Gene Sperling, two-time director of the National Economic Council, as the school's 2011 commencement speaker.

Sperling has spent much of his career at the intersection of economics, education, and public policy. An expert on tax and budget issues, he is known for his economic leadership, focus on problem-solving without ideological zeal, expanding tax credits for the working poor, and advocating for girls' education.

President Barack Obama appointed Sperling to his current role on the council in January; it is a position he also held during the Clinton Administration. Sperling also serves as assistant to the president for economic policy.

In the 2006 New York Times review of his book, The Pro-Growth Progressive, the reviewer wrote that "If you were inclined to identify Clintonism with a single person other than the big man himself, that person might well be Gene inveterate policy wonk throughout all eight years of the administration."

Clinton Years

Sperling served under President Clinton for the full tenure of his administration, from 1993 to 2001. One of their hallmark achievements was expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a policy that has become central to federal anti-poverty efforts. The refundable tax credit provides a wage subsidy for poor Americans.

As Sperling himself wrote in a Bloomberg commentary, "the Clinton expansion has now meant about $100 billion in additional funding for working poor families since 1993," calling EITC "an effective tool to reward work withut causing employers to curb hiring."

When Hillary Clinton launched a presidential bid in 2007, Sperling joined her campaign as the top economic official. After she conceded, he threw his support behind Obama’s run for the White House. After the 2008 general election, Sperling was a senior adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on budget and tax issues.

Educational Mission  

An advocate for girls' education, Sperling founded and directed the Center for Universal Education at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he was a senior fellow for economic policy. He also co-authored What Works in Girls' Education: Evidence and Policies from the Developing World.

His commitment to the issue extended to his membership on the UN Millennium Task Force on Gender Equality and Education and the World Economic Forum's Global Governance Initiative.

In the Media

Sperling served as a consultant for the TV series The West Wing—where his wife was a writer—and played himself in the documentary The War Room, about Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. In addition to his commentary writing, he has served as an adviser to Goldman Sachs.

He earned his bachelor's degree in political science at the University of Minnesota and his law degree at Yale.

Kogod's May 8 commencement ceremony will take place in Bender Arena at 9 a.m. Families and friends who cannot make the ceremony will be able to watch a live stream of each ceremony on the American University website. 

Students, alumni, friends, and family are also encouraged to follow AU's Commencement on the Facebook group, and tweet during commencement using the hashtag #2011AUGrad.