Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge will visit the Athenaeum this Thursday, October 31, as part of the Rose Institute’s speaker series. Secretary Ridge served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1983 to 1995, before his role in the White House, and served as the governor of Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2001. He is currently president and CEO of Ridge Global, an international security and risk management advisory firm. Earlier this year, he also co-founded a new strategic advisory firm called Ridge Schmidt Cyber to help leaders in business and government protect against the growing threat of cyber-terrorism.
In mid-2009, Ridge released what the media called a “tell-all,” which included glimpses of the circumstances surrounding national security decisions made under the George W. Bush administration. Media outlets interpreted seemingly controversial quotes from the book to suggest that Ridge was pressured to raise a national security alarm to aid political ambitions just before the 2004 election. However, top officials who were contemporaries of Ridge’s maintained that politics did not influence the decision to raise the national security alert. Later, in an interview with NPR, Ridge said: “I say to myself in the book: Is it politics? Is it security? People have interpreted that [thought] as me second-guessing my colleagues. As I said before, we had this discussion eight or 10 times, and nobody, during the course of any of those discussions, do I believe… You couldn’t pressure anybody else because [the process] was designed for people to vent their opinion, but no one felt anything other than to make an honest judgment, a tough call based on security, not politics.”
Ridge’s memoir, described as “thoughtful and often incisive,” addresses substantive topics often glossed over in political discussion, and gives readers a sense of Ridge’s past in leadership and public service. Ridge is a Vietnam veteran; he received the Bronze Star, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and numerous other awards for his time as an enlisted solider, and emerged to make waves in Washington, DC. But before being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1967, Ridge received a scholarship to attend Harvard University, where he graduated cum laude. After returning from the war due to an injury, Ridge completed his J.D. at the Dickinson School of Law and entered private practice.
The Rose Institute is proud to honor Mr. Tom Ridge this Thursday for his work in building the Department of Homeland Security from the ground up. Mr. Ridge will discuss the implications of the Boston Marathon bombings for the future of our national security and the role of state and local government in ensuring that our borders are the last line of defense.