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Bloomfield College Honorary Degree Recipients Discuss Public Service

Jeh Johnson,Thomas H. Kean, Sr., mary alice williams, bloomfield college

By Alicia Cook

Bloomfield College hosted a Dedication to Public Service: A Round Table Discussion on Thursday, November 30, in the Robert V. Van Fossan Theatre. Notable panelists included former Secretary of Homeland Security, the Honorable Jeh Johnson (hon. ’12), and former New Jersey Governor, the Honorable Thomas H. Kean, Sr. (hon. ’08).

NJTV News’ Mary Alice Williams (hon. ’15), former co-anchor of NBC’s Weekend Today and a former anchor and news division Vice President on CNN, moderated the discussion.

Attendees learned about the value of those in public service, recognized excellence in public service, and promoted the spirit of public service.

“There is no better way to give students a glimpse of their own opportunities than have them listen to people who do this every day,” said Williams. “This is for keeps, what we do…which is hopefully secure democracy for ourselves and future generations. Students have to learn from people who know what it is like on the outside and to underscore why education is important to them now.”

The conversation covered a myriad of topics including national security, terrorism and “accidental war,” immigration, Dreamers and DACA, fake news, the importance of bipartisanship, global warming and sustainability, and the current presidency.

“My public service career has been the most rewarding part of my adult life,” said Secretary Johnson. “When my obituary is written, hopefully, the very first paragraph will be about what I did in public service. I think it’s important to be in places like Bloomfield College to talk to students about how public service inspired me, and I hope it inspires them.”

Secretary Johnson was the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security from December 23, 2013, to January 20, 2017. As such, he led the third largest Department of the U.S. government, with 22 components including TSA, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, FEMA, the Coast Guard, and the Secret Service. Under Secretary Johnson’s leadership, DHS was responsible for counterterrorism, cybersecurity, aviation security, border security, port security, maritime security, administration and enforcement of our immigration laws, protection of our national leaders, protection of critical infrastructure, detection of and protection against chemical, biological and nuclear threats to the homeland, and response to disasters.

Previously, Secretary Johnson was appointed by President Obama to be General Counsel of the Department of Defense from 2009 through 2012. In that position, Johnson was one of the legal architects for the U.S. military’s counterterrorism mission during President Obama’s first term, and he gave several notable public addresses on the subject, including at the Oxford Union in November 2012. From October 1998 to January 2001, Johnson served in the Clinton Administration as General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force. From 1989 through 1991, Secretary Johnson was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York, where he prosecuted public corruption cases.

“Every minute I was in public office, I loved it. I went home every day knowing I did something good for someone, small or big. No other job, in my opinion, makes your feel that way,” said Gov. Kean.

Gov. Kean, Sr. is an American businessman, academic administrator, and politician, who served as the 48th Governor of New Jersey from 1982 to 1990. As a former teacher, education policy was of special importance for the governor. On the national level, the Governor also was named as chairman of the Education Commission of the States. He was succeeded as chairman by then Arkansas governor, Bill Clinton, with whom Kean would develop a lasting friendship. Upon the completion of his second term as governor, he served as the president of Drew University for 15 years, until his retirement in 2005.

Gov. Kean is best known globally, for his 2002 appointment as Chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, widely known as the 9/11 Commission, which was responsible for investigating the causes of the September 11, 2001 attacks and providing recommendations to prevent future terrorist attacks. President George W. Bush appointed him to this post.

“Given the political climate of today’s world, I think it’s very important to honor and acknowledge these people who gave so much of themselves to public service,” said Bloomfield College Trustee Rosemary Iversen.

Iversen and her husband, Al, served as the key sponsors of this event and helped greatly with organizing the evening.

View Photos.