Margaret Spellings: Back In The Heart Of Texas

Just announced from Texas: Former White House Domestic Policy Advisor and U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is leaving her consulting firm and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where she leads the education work, and heading back to Texas to become President of the George W. Bush Institute.*  From this morning’s press release:

“Spellings will oversee all aspects of Bush Foundation activities, including leadership of the George W. Bush Institute, management of George W. Bush Presidential Center business operations, and collaboration with the National Archives and Records Administration, which operates the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

The appointment of Spellings, one of the nation’s premier thought leaders in public policy, marks a new stage of development for the Bush Center’s policy arm, the Bush Institute.”

It’s a significant move, both because of what it means for the direction of the institute and also because Spellings has been a big presence on education policy in Washington since arriving in 2001.  I caught up with Spellings to discuss the move, what it means for her, the institute, and Texas footwear:

You’ve been doing a lot of impactful work with the Chamber of Commerce and through your consulting firm, why the move?

All good Texans eventually get back to Texas and this is the perfect way to do that. It is terrific to work with the President and Mrs. Bush to advance the issues we care so deeply about — education, economic growth, global health and human freedom to name a few.  I am also thrilled to be making my next professional home on the campus of an outstanding university in SMU.

What are your goals in this new role?

The fabulous new facility — library, institute and museum — give us amazing convening power to draw attention to our core work and to the major issues of our day. My goal is to make the Bush Center the “go to” source on our key areas and to have people see the programming we develop as reasoned, serious and compelling. I hope we will contribute in positive ways to informing key issues and develop serious thinking on the areas of our work around the core values of freedom — freedom from tyranny, freedom from illiteracy and freedom from disease as well as the freedom to pursue the American dream.

President Bush has pretty much stayed out of policy and political debates since leaving office, but you’re a pretty influential policy player, does this signal a shift?

We are all known more by our acts than by our words and I hope our record with our work will speak for itself. Folks in public service like the President and me do so because we want to make a difference in the world and I believe this forum is a great way for both of us to do that.

Speaking of politics, you’re heading back to Texas, should we look for your name on a ballot at some point?

Well, first I want to get my name on a voter registration card. Right now my bandwidth will be  fully spent on my new assignment.

What will you miss most about Washington?  

I will miss the many friends and colleagues I have had the chance to work with on both sides of the aisle and in many disciplines. I love the pace and intensity of Washington and will miss that too.

What will you miss least?

The traffic!

And now that you’re back in Texas you won’t be able to dodge debates like this: When it comes to boots, is your choice Lucchese or the Justin brands? 

Whatever boots are made for walkin…

*BW’s Sara Mead has done a small amount of consulting for the institute on school leadership and BW has done several research projects on ed policy questions for the  U.S. Chamber.

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