A Vision for the Baker Institute
... A bridge between the world of ideas and the world of action ...
Together, I believe we are building the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy into a nationally recognized center — one that will draw statesmen, scholars and students from around the world into its innovative and integrated activities.
My vision for the institute is simple: to build a bridge between the world of ideas and the world of action.
In my view, we need to work more diligently at nurturing the ties between these two worlds.
In the pursuit of truth, scholars often neglect the hard, worldly realities that impinge on ideal solutions and the day-to-day requirements that drive or constrain the statesman's options. And in their pursuit of the public good through power, statesmen often are disdainful of the world of ideas, closing out all outside advice and living in a cloistered world of their own making.
The institute, in short, should bridge these two worlds. Scholars should learn firsthand from statesmen of the practical imperatives that impact policy, oftentimes making "the perfect" the enemy of "the good." Statesmen and policymakers should hear from scholars rigorous, logical — (and always practical) — analyses of how to improve the work they do. And students, the next generation of scholars and statesmen, should be enriched through participation in this dialogue and go on to become better scholars and statesmen as a result.
James A. Baker, III
James A. Baker, III, has served in senior government positions under three United States presidents. He served as the nation's 61st secretary of state from January 1989 through August 1992 under President George H.W. Bush. During his tenure at the State Department, Baker traveled to 90 foreign countries as the United States confronted the unprecedented challenges and opportunities of the post–Cold War era. Baker’s reflections on those years of revolution, war and peace — “The Politics of Diplomacy” — was published in 1995.
Baker served as the 67th secretary of the treasury from 1985 to 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. As treasury secretary, he was also chairman of the President's Economic Policy Council. From 1981 to 1985, he served as White House chief of staff to President Reagan. 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 to January 1993.
Long active in American presidential politics, Baker led presidential campaigns for Presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush over the course of five consecutive presidential elections from 1976 to 1992.
A native Houstonian, Baker graduated from Princeton University in 1952. After two years of active duty as a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, he entered The University of Texas School of Law at Austin. He received his J.D. with honors in 1957 and practiced law with the Houston firm of Andrews and Kurth from 1957 to 1975.
Baker’s memoir — “Work Hard, Study . . . and Keep Out of Politics! Adventures and Lessons from an Unexpected Public Life” — was published in October 2006.
Baker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 and has been the recipient of many other awards for distinguished public service, including Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson Award, the American Institute for Public Service's Jefferson Award, Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government Award, The Hans J. Morgenthau Award, The George F. Kennan Award, the Department of the Treasury's Alexander Hamilton Award, the Department of State's Distinguished Service Award and numerous honorary academic degrees.
Baker is presently a senior partner in the law firm of Baker Botts. He is the honorary chairman of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and serves on the board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. From 1997 to 2004, Baker served as the personal envoy of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to seek a political solution to the conflict over Western Sahara. In 2003, Baker was appointed special presidential envoy for President George W. Bush on the issue of Iraqi debt. In 2005, he was co-chair, with former President Jimmy Carter, of the Federal Commission on Election Reform. Since March 2006, Baker and former U.S. Congressman Lee H. Hamilton have served as the co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel examining a forward-looking approach to Iraq.
Baker was born in Houston, Texas, in 1930. He and his wife, the former Susan Garrett, currently reside in Houston and have eight children and 17 grandchildren.
Publications and Reports
Iraq Study Group Report
The Baker Institute is one of several think tanks that were an integral part of the Iraq Study Group Report, a congressionally mandated, bipartisan effort to take a fresh look at the current and prospective situation on the ground in Iraq, its impact on the surrounding region and the consequences for U.S. interests. The group, appointed in March 2006, was led by former secretary of state James A. Baker, III, and former U.S. congressman Lee H. Hamilton, then director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
- Read the Iraq Study Group Report, released to Congress, the White House, and the public on Dec. 6, 2006.
- Read the statement by James A. Baker, III, and Lee H. Hamiton before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Jan. 30, 2007.
- Read the response from James A. Baker, III, and Lee H. Hamilton to President Bush's new strategy in Iraq.
National War Commission Report
The National War Powers Commission, co-chaired by former Secretaries of State James A. Baker, III, and Warren Christopher, recommended in July 2008 that Congress repeal the War Powers Resolution of 1973 and substitute a new statute that would provide for more meaningful consultation between the president and Congress on matters of war.
- Click here for an overview of the report and the commission.
- Click here to view findings and recommendations.
- Click here to view appendices to the final report.
- Click here to read The New York Times op-ed.
Ratify the START Treaty
James A. Baker, III, joined President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden, as well as current and former officials from both sides of the aisle, to push for Senate ratification of the New START treaty in 2010.
Click here for links to their Washington Post op-ed and Mr. Baker's May 19, 2010, Senate testimony.
Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)
- James A. Baker, III, was the first high-level American official to meet with Mr. Mandela after his release from prison in 1990. Mr. Baker remembers Mr. Mandela in a series of media interviews, below:
Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer (Dec. 9, 2013)
CBS News with Charlie Rose (Dec. 6, 2013)
MSNBC (Dec. 6, 2013)
Fox News (Dec. 6, 2013)
April 8, 2013 - Mr. Baker remembers Margaret Thatcher with Anderson Cooper and Christiane Armanpour. Watch the video here.
April 8, 2013 - Mr. Baker remembers Margaret Thatcher with Judy Woodruff on News Hour. Watch the video here.
Dec. 14, 2012 - Mr. Baker discusses the national debt, the Middle East and the future of the Republican Party in an extended interview with Fareed Zakaria. Watch the video here.
Dec. 7, 2012 - James A. Baker, III, speaks about the possibility of chemical weapons in Syria and the "fiscal cliff." Watch the video here.
March 28, 2012 - Mr. Baker discusses the U.S-Israel relationship. Watch the video here.
The National Debt
Sept. 12, 2012 - James A. Baker, III, joins former secretary of the treasury Robert Rubin for a bipartisan forum on the economic and foreign policy implications of the debt crisis. Click here for links to the event video, audio and transcript.
Reflections on the Ford Administration
Dec. 13, 2011 - James A. Baker, III, recalls President Gerald Ford's leadership qualities in a special 30th anniversary talk at the Ford Museum. Watch the video here.
World Affairs Council
Nov. 9, 2011 - Former U.S. Secretaries of State James A. Baker, III, and Condoleezza Rice spoke in Dallas on political reform in the Middle East, the economy and education. The event was sponsored by the World Affairs Council and Dallas Museum of Art. Watch the video here.
Bush Clinton Coastal Recovery Fund
Sept. 24, 2008 - James A. Baker, III, chaired the Bush Clinton Coastal Recovery Fund, initiated by former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, to support communities in the greater Gulf Coast region impacted by hurricanes and tropical storms during the summer of 2008. Click here for video of the announcement.
Federal Election Reform
May 20, 2008 - Former President Jimmy Carter and James A. Baker, III, discuss federal election reform with author David Von Drehle. Watch the video here.