U.S. Trade Representative and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk will speak at SMU’s 95th Commencement ceremony at 9:30 a.m. May 15 in Moody Coliseum.
SMU expects to award nearly 2,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees in the Universitywide ceremony.
Appointed by President Barack Obama, Kirk is the nation’s chief adviser, negotiator and spokesperson for trade. The Office of the United States Trade Representative develops and coordinates U.S. international trade, commodity and direct investment policy, and oversees negotiations with other countries.
As the U.S. Trade Representative, Kirk also serves as vice chairman of the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, is on the Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, is a nonvoting member of the Export-Import Bank Board of Directors, and a member of the National Advisory Council on International Monetary and Financial Policies.
“As Commencement speaker, Ambassador Kirk brings the perspective of one whose leadership has been local, national and now international,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “As Dallas mayor he helped to establish the city as a gateway to the global community. Now, as Trade Representative, he is shaping U.S. policy and international relationships to open new world markets and broaden economic opportunities for the United States. Our graduates will be inspired by his words and the example of leadership he has set.”
In 2008, exports generated nearly $2 trillion dollars in income for U.S. workers, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and producers – about one of every $8 earned. As many as 43 million Americans owe at least part of their livelihoods to international trade. With 95 percent of the world’s customers located outside of the United States, exports are likely to be a source of economic and job growth for decades to come. President Obama has set a goal to double U.S. exports in the next five years, an accomplishment that would support two million new jobs.
Kirk draws upon more than 25 years of diverse legislative and economic experience on local, state and federal levels. As the first African-American mayor of Dallas from 1995-2001, he expanded the city’s international reach through a range of trade programs and missions. Previously, he served as Texas Secretary of State under Gov. Ann Richards, as a legislative aide to U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and as chair of Texas’ General Service Commission. He also served as a Dallas assistant city attorney.
“As mayor of Dallas, Mr. Kirk helped to strengthen our community by reducing crime, encouraging civic engagement and building the city’s capacity to attract major businesses,” said Patrick Kobler, SMU student body president. “His experience is a perfect match for the Commencement ceremony at SMU as a university that produces civic leaders who embody a global perspective.”
Before his appointment as U.S. Trade Representative, Kirk was a partner at Houston-based Vinson & Elkins LLP. He was named one of “The 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America” by The National Law Journal in 2008, and one of the nation’s top government relations lawyers by The Best Lawyers in America from 2007-2009.
Kirk also has been active at SMU. He has been a member of the SMU Hart Global Leaders Forum advisory board since its 1997 inception and served as its chairman. In 2001, he was named an honorary alumnus of SMU’s Dedman School of Law. His wife, Matrice Ellis-Kirk, previously served on the SMU Cox School of Business executive board and the Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series board. The couple also served as honorary co-chairs for the 2007 J. Erik Jonsson Award luncheon honoring civil rights activist Rev. Zan Wesley Holmes Jr.
Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Kirk received his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and sociology from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, and his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law. He and his wife have two daughters, Elizabeth Alexandra and Catherine Victoria.
After the Universitywide Commencement, SMU’s schools and departments will hold individual ceremonies throughout the day to present degrees and honor graduates.