Businessman, philanthropist, author and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg received on Jan. 29, 2018, the Tower Center Medal of Freedom from SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies. The honor, presented every two years, recognizes “extraordinary contributions for the advancement of democratic ideals and to the security, prosperity and welfare of humanity.”
Bloomberg was elected the 108th mayor of New York City in 2001 and won re-election in 2005 and 2009. As the first New York mayor elected after the 9/11 attacks, he put emergency preparation, infrastructure issues, education, and environmental and health regulations at the center of his concerns. During his tenure, he balanced the city budget, raised New York teacher salaries; unveiled PlaNYC: A Greater, Greener New York to fight climate change and prepare for its impacts; and co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns (now Everytown for Gun Safety), a nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to reducing the number of illegal guns in U.S. cities.
“In the aftermath of the worst terror attack on U.S. soil, Michael Bloomberg led New York City out of mourning and back into its place as one of the most important cities in the world. He took the city’s public education system and poverty issues head on during his two terms as mayor,” said SMU Trustee Jeanne Tower Cox ’78 in her introduction. She also lauded Bloomberg’s work with his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, which focuses on five areas that echo his priorities as mayor: public health, the arts, government innovation, the environment, and education.
Born in Boston in 1942, Bloomberg graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1964 with a B.S. degree in electrical engineering. He earned his M.B.A. from Harvard in 1966 and served as a partner in the Wall Street investment bank of Salomon Brothers before founding his own company. Innovative Market Systems, later renamed Bloomberg L.P., went on to revolutionize the rapid graphing and distribution of business and financial information and ultimately made him a billionaire. After his mayoral service, Bloomberg returned to serve as CEO of Bloomberg L.P. at the end of 2014.
In 2017, with a personal fortune Forbes magazine reported to be $47.5 billion, Bloomberg was listed among the 10 richest people in the world. Forbes estimates his wealth as of January 2018 to be $52.7 billion. In 2010, he became a founding participant in The Giving Pledge, a campaign in which the world’s wealthiest individuals and families pledge to contribute at least half their net worth to philanthropic causes.
Previous Tower Center Medal of Freedom recipients include former U.S. Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Colin Powell, former British Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, U.S. Senator John McCain, historian David McCullough, former commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command Gen. Tommy R. Franks (Ret.), former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and former First Lady Laura Welch Bush ’68.
The SMU Tower Center was created to commemorate the late U.S. Senator John G. Tower, whose life was dedicated to public service and education. In the spirit of John Tower‘s commitment to educate and inspire a new generation of thoughtful leaders, the Tower Center seeks to bridge the gap between the world of ideas, scholarship and teaching, and the practice of politics. The primary mission of the Tower Center is to promote the study of politics and international affairs and to stimulate an interest in ethical public service among undergraduates. The Tower Center is an academic center where all parties and views are heard in a marketplace of ideas, and the Center will pursue its mission in a nonpartisan manner.