Bill Richardson, secretary of Commerce


Early Career, 1947 – 1982

William Blaine Richardson, the son of a Nicaraguan banker and a Spanish-born philanthropist who resided in Mexico, was born in Pasadena, California, on November 15th, 1947. He was an excellent baseball player in his youth, but politics quickly became his main interest and he earned degrees in political science and international affairs from Tufts University (MA 1972). He married and worked for former Congressman F. Bradford Morse (R – Mass.) soon after leaving college, and afterwards worked as a staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He moved to his current residence in New Mexico in 1978 and ran for Congress for the first time in 1980, as a Democrat, but he lost narrowly to the Republican incumbent candidate, Manuel Lujan, a fellow Latino who held the seat for another decade. 1982 saw the creation of a new congressional district in New Mexico, and he won the first election there and held the seat for fourteen years.

Congressional Work and the Clinton Administration, 1983 – 2002

Bill Richardson’s tenure in Congress was stuffed with bills and motions supporting Native American interests, which have always been a priority in New Mexico, working to promote religious freedom and water rights, among other key legislation. But it was during the Clinton administration that Bill Richardson saw his greatest achievements. Clinton put his knowledge of foreign relations to work on the international scene, sending him on missions to Baghdad, his father’s home country of Nicaragua, Guatemala, Peru, Cuba, and several countries in Africa and Asia, as well as meeting with the Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic. It was thanks to these missions that Richardson was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize four times. In 1997, he resigned as a Congressman and was appointed ambassador to the United Nations, leaving the following year to become Secretary of Energy. Though not entirely comfortable in this role, he did oversee an important Tribal Energy Act which supported Native American rights to power and natural resources.

In 2002, Richardson was elected Governor of New Mexico by a wide margin. He was and is the only Hispanic Governor in the fifty United States (not counting Puerto Rico) and was reelected by the widest margin in New Mexico history – 68% to 32% – in 2006. While working to support minority rights in his state, which has both the highest percentage of Latinos and the highest percentage of Native Americans, he continues to work in international diplomacy. As governor, he has defended the issuing of drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants, as well as speaking forcibly on offering them a clear and viable path to citizenship. Richardson is expected to resign as Governor to accept a position as the US Secretary of Commerce for the Obama administration. He was one of the first from the Clinton administration to endorse Obama in the primaries after dropping out of the race himself in January.


In the words of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, “there’s no one more qualified to be part of the president’s cabinet than Bill Richardson.” As Secretary of Commerce, Richardson’s duty will be “to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce.” The post is currently held by Cuban-born Carlos Gutiérrez.

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