IRI to Honor Former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III with Freedom Award

Washington, DC – IRI will honor former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III with its 2011 Freedom Award for his exemplary public service and his work in international diplomacy which resulted in freedom for millions.  IRI Board Member Senator Lindsey Graham will present the award to Secretary Baker on November 10 at an event in Washington, DC.  The event will feature a conversation with Secretary Baker moderated by Thomas L. Friedman, an internationally renowned author, reporter and columnist. 

“James Baker’s work with President Ronald Reagan, and later, as Secretary of State, helped ensure freedom for millions of people,” said Senator John McCain, Chairman of IRI’s Board of Directors.  “We are proud to present him with IRI’s Freedom Award for his tireless efforts to advance the principles of freedom and democracy around the globe.”

James A. Baker, III has an accomplished career in public service and politics.  Among his many appointments, he served in senior government positions under three United States presidents.  He served as Secretary of State from January 1989-August 1992 under President George H.W. Bush; as Secretary of the Treasury from 1985-1988 under President Ronald Reagan and as Chairman of the President’s Economic Policy Council; and as White House Chief of Staff to President Reagan from 1981-1985. 

Baker’s record of public service began in 1975 as Under Secretary of Commerce to President Gerald Ford.  It concluded with his service as White House Chief of Staff and Senior Counselor to President Bush from August 1992-January 1993.  Baker led presidential campaigns for presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush over the course of five consecutive presidential elections from 1976-1992. 

During his tenure as the nation’s 61st Secretary of State, the Soviet Union dissolved, ending the Cold War.  Baker worked to ensure the United States played a lead role in the democratization of the newly freed former Soviet-bloc nations, and laid the groundwork for the 1990 unification of Germany.  That year, he helped forge the international coalition that forced Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, restoring that nation’s sovereignty.  He was also the architect of the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, which for the first time brought Israel together with neighboring Arab countries for face-to-face peace talks. 

In 1993, Baker founded the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.  From 1997-2004, he served as the Personal Envoy of the United Nations to seek a political solution to the conflict over Western Sahara.  In 2003, at the request of President George W. Bush, he served as Special Presidential Envoy to restructure Iraq’s sovereign debt.  In 2005, he and President Jimmy Carter chaired the bi-partisan Commission on Federal Election Reform.  In 2006, Baker and Congressman Lee Hamilton chaired the Iraq Study Group, which offered a bi-partisan plan for a way forward in the war-torn country.  In 2008, he and the late Secretary of State Warren Christopher served as co-chairs of the National War Powers Commission.

A native Houstonian, Baker graduated from Princeton University in 1952.  Following two years of active duty as a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, he received his J.D. with honors in 1957 from The University of Texas School of Law at Austin and practiced law with the Houston firm of Andrews and Kurth from 1957-1975.  Baker is presently a senior partner in the law firm of Baker Botts.

Friedman is the author of six bestselling books, among them From Beirut to Jerusalem and The World is Flat.  He is the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes: the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting (from Lebanon), the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting (from Israel) and the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary.  In 2004, he was also awarded the Overseas Press Club Award for lifetime achievement and the honorary title Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II.  In 2009, he was given the National Press Club’s lifetime achievement award.  Friedman is currently the foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times.

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