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When a friend gets a deserved plum promotion, applause is in order, even through the sadness of knowing that the friend must depart to accept it.
That's how many Minnesota public policy wonks are receiving news that J. Brian Atwood, dean of the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute, has been elected chairman of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Development Assistance Committee. Atwood will leave Minnesota shortly to assume that influential post in Paris.
Atwood's return to international development work is a local-guy-makes-good story. The top administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development during President Bill Clinton's administration, Atwood stepped back from development policy to take the Humphrey Institute's helm eight years ago. He adapted readily to Minnesota's premier academic and research center for public policy, bringing fresh ideas and some needed focus to its work.
"Brian put zip back into it," said former Vice President Walter Mondale of Atwood's impact on the institute. He raised its national prominence and increased its enrollment, Mondale said. Atwood's watch included the creation of the Center for the Study of Politics and Government, a steady source of reliable information and analysis of Minnesota politics.
It's reassuring to know that Atwood will retain his faculty appointment at the University of Minnesota, suggesting that he'll be back when his OECD gig ends. Meanwhile, he'll be well-positioned to receive visiting Minnesota students and faculty studying how the world's leading nations, working cooperatively, can improve the lot of underdeveloped ones. May the applause Atwood hears in coming days reinforce his resolve to return.
"My view is that when you have an election like this, even when Democrats manage to squeeze by, you have to really take stock of yourself and question your long-term relevance if you don't change. Democrats have to transition from being an economic-security party to an economic-growth party."JIM KESSLER, vice president for policy at Third Way, a think tank that advances the ideas of moderate Democrats, as quoted by the Wall Street Journal's Gerald F. Seib.
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