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May 1996 / NOAA Report


NOAA Administrator D. James Baker, Secretary Brown and then-NOAA Chief Scientist Kathryn Sullivan meet local grade school students at the Commerce Department courtyard in 1993.

Dr. Baker and Secretary Brown aboard the NOAA Ship Ferrel at the dedication of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in 1993.

Ron Brown—A Remembrance

S amuel Johnson said: “It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives.” Ron Brown’s death was tragic and untimely, and came too soon. We mourn his loss, the loss of thirteen of our Commerce and other Federal agency colleagues, the loss to private industry of the twelve executives, and the loss of the accompanying reporter, interpreter, photographer, and Air Force crew members. What was important in Ron Brown’s life was his many accomplish- ments and his positive and strengthening spirit.

Ron Brown lived his life to help others, and was a man of action in the best sense. His trip to Croatia was an attempt to help build that war-torn region by use of private capital. He encouraged all of the Department of Commerce to work internationally to help accomplish sustainable development. He saw the key links between economic growth and environmental stewardship, and promoted these links nationally through his help for distressed fishing communi- ties and the President’s Council on Sustainable Development.

He promoted the links internationally through his many trade development missions, and encouraged me and others in the Department to use our interna-

tional contacts to promote sustainable development. At the very time of his death, several of the Department bureau heads were traveling internationally on missions of trade and sustainable development: for example, I was in China, ESA’s Ev Ehrlich was in Paris, ITA’s Tim Hauser was in Vietnam: all


missions to develop closer relations with countries of key importance to this changing world.

Ron Brown saw the Department of Commerce as the Department of the Future: a Department where the issues of sustainability all come together: economic growth, protection of life and property, stewardship of natural resources, science and technology, and environmental and economic information. He saw the opponents of the Department as ones who look backwards to the past; rather than to a future that depends as much on how the world views America as on how America views the world.

For NOAA, Ron Brown was a tireless advocate with the Administration, with the Congress, with the business and environmental community, and with the public. He recognized the importance of partnerships with the private sector, and held business/government roundtables. He was fearless in dealing with NOAA issues, and enthusiastic about helping us achieve our goals. He gave us advice and guidance that was politically astute and strong in principle. He was the perfect boss in many senses; most often saying “tell me what you want me to do, and I will make it happen.” And he did.

In one of his last speeches, Ron Brown was answering those who questioned why NOAA should be in the Depart- ment of Commerce. Without notes, he eloquently spoke of the farmer who needs weather and forecasts for crops, the fishers who need science and status of fish stocks, the mariner and pilots who need accurate charts, and the insurance companies who need help with coastal development. “Tell those people that they are not part of national and international commerce,” he said, “and they will throw you out of the room.” And he meant it.

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