Today, we honor the anniversary of the passing of former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown. Secretary Brown was a dedicated public servant whose untimely death during a trade mission to Croatia on April 3, 1996 ended his life far too soon. His vision continues to be important and today’s work at the Department of Commerce builds on his legacy.
Secretary Brown served his country in Korea as a soldier in the U.S. Army and in the halls of Congress as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He also broke down barriers – becoming the first African American chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the first African American to serve as U.S. Secretary of Commerce. In this latter role, he made perhaps his largest impact.
During his tenure at Commerce, Secretary Brown pioneered a focus on exports that helped to boost the U.S. economy in the 1990s and contributed to one of the largest periods of economic expansion in our nation’s history. During a time when emerging markets in Asia and Latin America were opening up to trade, Secretary Brown led a concerted effort to support this advancement and to secure access for U.S. goods and services. He was a proponent of free trade, seeing business as a powerful force to create good jobs at home and to accelerate prosperity around the world. He also was an advocate of fair trade, seeking to ensure that U.S. workers would be helped and not harmed by new trading arrangements that would increase flows of capital and commerce.