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June 27, 2007 – It was no surprise when Robert Zoellick MPP/JD 1981 was unanimously elected Monday as the new president of the World Bank. Since his recent nomination by President George Bush, he has been lauded for his intelligence, leadership, managerial skills, and solid reputation in foreign and economic policy.
Zoellick’s distinguished career has included service under the last three Republican presidents, during which he gained the experience and built the high-level contacts throughout the globe that will serve him as he takes leadership of the world’s leading multilateral development agency. Most recently Zoellick served as U.S. Trade Representative and later as Deputy Secretary of State. Last year he left the State Department to take an executive position at Goldman Sachs.
The task before him is not an easy one. Zoellick must rebuild confidence in an organization recently rocked by scandal. It’s a process he recognizes as crucial to the forward progress of the Bank. “The key is to be open and listen,” he said in a recent article in the Washington Post. “There are probably some frustrations that the people need to express.”
Listening and learning applies to the world outside the Bank, as well. Zoellick recently returned from a two-week global tour, meeting with leaders in Africa, Europe, and Latin America. “He is already reaching out,” former World Bank president James Wolfensohn told The New York Times. “He understands that you have to return the bank to its main thrust, which is development on behalf of the poor.”
Zoellick has also begun to signal priorities and new approaches to business. Working with the poorest countries of Africa, for instance, will be a central goal; and he sees the relationship being one of partnership. As he began his world tour in Ghana, he told reporters, “In many countries you have a group of ministers who are extremely good, they have a good knowledge of what needs to be done and frankly I hope the World Bank can work with them to try and help them with their success. It can’t be done from the outside. It has to be done by the people of Africa. The question is how the World Bank and others can help.”
Graham Allison, director of the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, where Zoellick served as Fellow from 1999-2000, said recently that “Zoellick is the very model of a modern American public servant. Bob’s combination of analytic skills, strategic insight, political savvy, and solid values are a vivid reminder of what we are trying to do here.”
University Professor and former Kennedy School Dean Joseph Nye, Jr. recalls Zoellick as an “excellent student” who will excel in his new position.
As he begins his new job on July 1, Zoellick joins the ranks of other Kennedy School alumni assuming high-level leadership positions on the world stage over the past two years. Ban Ki-Moon MPA 1984 is the new secretary general of the United Nations; Felipe Calderón MPA 2000 is the newly-elected president of Mexico; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf MPA 1971 is president of Liberia; and Donald Tsang MPA 1982 was re-elected chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.