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Remembering Secretary Ron Brown

Photo of the late Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown

Guest post by Secretary John Bryson

Today at the Department of Commerce, we remember the contributions of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, a committed public servant who dedicated his life to strengthening America’s prosperity and making a difference.

Sixteen years ago today, a plane crash took the lives of Secretary Ron Brown, 11 Commerce employees, and 23 other U.S. and Croatian citizens, during a trade mission to Croatia. The trip was planned to help the recovering economy of the war-torn Balkans–a mission consistent with Brown’s legacy as a strong supporter of developing economic opportunity and growth both here and abroad.

During his tenure at the Commerce Department, Brown was an influential figure and tireless advocate for American businesses. His accomplishments as Secretary included helping the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rebuild depleted fisheries and modernizing the National Weather Service. Secretary Brown also worked with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to lead the Information Infrastructure Task Force, laying the groundwork for the Internet boom. In addition, Brown led trade missions to five different continents that led to more than $80 billion in foreign deals for U.S. businesses–helping support good jobs for hardworking families here at home.

Secretary Brown was also a trailblazer throughout his life. Early on, he was the first African American to integrate his college fraternity and to become a partner at the prestigious Washington law firm, Patton Boggs & Blow. Later, he became the first African American chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and then, the first African American Secretary of Commerce, where he served for three years under President Bill Clinton.

Around the Department of Commerce, he was highly regarded for his warm, engaging personality and his pride for working on a team that was focused on growing the American economy. Even though his passing was a huge tragedy and loss for all of us–family, friends, and colleagues–his legacy as Secretary of Commerce continues to live on in the work we do every day supporting American businesses and creating U.S. jobs.

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Great man...thanks for

Great man...thanks for sharing!

Ron Brown

Thank you for remembering. Steve kaminski, a husband, father, colleague, dear friend, and foreign commercial Service officer died on the plane as well

Ron Brown's dedication to diversity issues

Thank you Secretary Bryson.
As a Commerce employee for two decades before Secretary Brown's tenure and sixteen years since his untimely death, I feel it is important to also laud his dedication to diversity issues within the Department and without. It was through his urging that Commerce began an earnest attempt to implement a multifaceted approach to bringing a fair representation of minorities into all levels of the workplace. He encouraged formal mentoring programs and practices whereby employees were encouraged to craft an individual development plan (IDP) to set goals an milestones for themselves so that they could demonstrate to management that they were worthy of recognition and upward mobility. This to me was his greatest legacy. The best way to honor Ron Brown would be to have the Department work to make the most of all of its employees by strengthening its dedication to workplace diversity.
Tracy Leigh

What about the other 11 Commerce employees?

I've worked for Commerce for 10 years, so I've seen this annual message many times. I find it troubling, though, that the other 11 Commerce employees who lost their lives are never mentioned by name. Even just an external link to a list would be better than nothing.

I think you forget that most of the people who receive this message are Commerce employees who would probably not garner a specific mention were they to pass away in the line of duty. I have to say, as one of them, it makes me sad to think that if I died I wouldn't even be mentioned by name, simply because I'm not at the top of the organizational hierarchy. I think it might be worth reconsidering the message you're sending to your employees by leaving out the names of the "11 Commerce employees."

Names of all lives lost

Excellent point. Here are the names of all lives lost in the crash.

Gerald V. Aldrich, Niksa Antonini, Dragica Lendic Bedek, Duane R. Christian, Barry L. Conrad, Paul Cushman, III, Adam N. Darling, Ashley J. Davis, Gail E. Dobert, Robert E. Donovan, Claudio Elia, Robert Farrington, Jr., David Ford, Carol L. Hamilton, Kathryn E. Hoffman, Lee F. Jackson, Stephen C. Kaminski,
Kathryn E. Kellogg, Shelly A. Kelly, James M. Lewek, Frank Maier, Charles F. Meissner, William E. Morton, Walter J. Murphy, Lawrence M. Payne, Nathaniel C. Nash, Leonard J. Pieroni, Timothy W. Shafer, John A. Scoville, Jr., I. Donald Terner, P. Stuart Tholan, Cheryl A. Turnage, Naomi P. Warbasse, Robert A. Whittaker.