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The new powers that be: the Clinton challenge.

President Clinton has named an unprecendented number of African-Americans to his cabinet. Here's who they are and what you can expect them to do.

President Bill Clinton's recent appointments have exponentially expanded the definition of black power in the United States. Four cabinet-level posts--Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of Veterans Affairs--place African-Americans among the elite policy-makers in the United States and the world. Additional non-Cabinet appointments of African-Americans as Surgeon General and Deputy Secretary of State further enhance black influence and stature.

Make no mistake. These appointments go far beyond the novelty of having African-Americans in power: The Secretary of Commerce must help lift the country out of its economic doldrums in the face of an escalating budget deficit. The Secretary of Energy will search for a balance between pollution controls, the nation's energy needs and industry productivity. The Secretary of Agriculture will have to make farming a more profitable venture while keeping food prices low. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs will deal with a record increase in unemployed veterans and shrinking resources for benefits. The Surgeon General faces battling the spread of AIDS and the nation's health care crisis. And finally, the Deputy Secretary of State will play a major role in establishing relations with the new nations of Eastern Europe and Africa.

Giving African-Americans prime responsibility for these critical issues presents a golden opportunity. While core issues influencing all Americans will be shaped by these appointments, other issues affecting people of color may finally find a place on the agenda. Here, BLACK ENTERPRISE takes a look at the people chosen to hold these historic appointments and the decisions they are likely to make.

Cabinet Member: Ronald H. Brown, 51. Position: Secretary of Commerce.

Analysis: The facilitator of critical compromises during last year's Democratic Party presidential victory may have to make compromises of his own to be effective in this powerful post. As the point man for promoting international and domestic trade, Brown will find himself under a microscope.

Republicans are making a big deal over the Democratic National Committee chairman's ability to cut deals. Using his influence, he has generated millions of dollars worth of business as a partner at Patton, Boggs & Blow, one of Washington, D.C.'s most powerful law firms. While at the firm, his dealings with foreign governments, including the ruthless Duvalier regime of Haiti, have raised questions of ethics. He has denied charges of cutting deals for personal gain. Although the St. John's University Law School graduate's negotiating and deal-making skills make him perfect for the job, Brown will not escape scrutiny.

Brown's biggest challenge will be to help President Clinton enact legislation to stimulate the economy. He will create policies to increase economic opportunities strengthening both small business and major industries.

Brown's limited experience with foreign trade negotiations will not deter him from making it a major focus. He will likely concentrate on new trade policies with Japan, Eastern Europe and Africa. Brown may also suggest refinements to the recently signed North American Free Trade Agreement.

Cabinet Member: Hazel R. O'Leary, 55. Position: Secretary of Energy.

Analysis: O'Leary's various experiences make her an ideal arbiter of the conflicting interests of environmentalists and industry. The Newport News, Va., native most recently served as executive vice president at the Northern States Power Co., a Minnesota public utility, where she handled environmental affairs, public relations and lobbying.

O'Leary has also crafted energy policy for the federal government. She served as head of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Economic Regulatory Administration during the Carter administration and worked in the Federal Energy Administration under President Ford.

Perhaps the "hottest" thing on O'Leary's agenda will be coordinating the safe, cost-effective cleanup of America's nuclear weapons factories, reactors and laboratories. The majority of the DOE's $19 billion budget is expected to go to that task. The rest will help the agency's 20,000 employees develop and administer a comprehensive national energy plan. The former New Jersey assistant attorney general says she will also look to enforce the Energy Departments minority set-aside mandate. "We'll set up a salary compensation system," she says. "If you don't meet your goals, you don't get rewarded."

Cabinet Member: Mike Espy, 39. Position: Secretary of Agriculture.

Analysis: Think of it.: A young African-American from Yazoo City, Miss., as the chief policy-maker for the largest producer of agricultural products in the world. For Espy, that means the fulfillment of everything he has worked hard for during his three terms as a Mississippi Congressman.

While on Capitol Hill, Espy represented one of the poorest, most agricultural districts in the nation. He focused on protecting agricultural interests in his six years on the House Agriculture Committee. He has also been a supporter of welfare reform and programs to feed the hungry. The University of Santa Clara Law School graduate has also served as assistant attorney general for consumer protection and assistant secretary of state for public lands in Mississippi.

Espy's biggest challenges will come from the uncertainties of free trade, disagreements over government farm subsidies, the development of new farm technologies and the escalating costs of running farm businesses.

Cabinet Member Jesse Brown, 48. Position: Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Analysis: Brown is a Clinton appointee who has strong ties to the Washington establishment and the constituency most affected by the office he will hold. Since the former marine returned from Vietnam with a paralyzed right arm 27 years ago, he has been a leading advocate for the rights of disabled veterans.

The Detroit native has served as executive director of the Disabled Veterans of America (DAV) since 1989. He has battled bureaucracy at the Veterans Administration, helping veterans in small communities qualify for health, educational and disability benefits. Brown has also been an effective lobbyist on Capitol Hill.

Brown inherits an agency that is in conflict with its constituents. He must soothe the sting produced by Bush administration proposals to open some VA hospitals to nonveterans. He must also quiet fears about possible reductions in veterans' health benefits as budget cutbacks loom.

He is likely to begin by revamping the $13.8 billion VA hospital system. The system, which employs 200,000 people, has been maligned by reports that it administers poor and negligent health care services.

Cabinet Member: Dr. Joycelyn Elders, 59. Position: U.S. Surgeon General.

Analysis: The appointment of this highly regarded, seasoned health care professional as the U.S. Surgeon General may set the stage for a wave of activism in the government's Public Health Service. Elders is known for bringing passion to her work. Since becoming the first African-American and first woman director of the Arkansas Health Department in 1987, she has publicly feuded with conservative groups and local legislators opposed to her advocacy of contraceptive distribution at school health clinics.

Elders is a pediatrician who earned her medical degree and practiced for 26 years at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. During her career there, the Schaal, Ark., native developed expertise in the treatment of juvenile growth problems and diabetes. These credentials suggest that she will actively use the Public Health Services' 6,500 commissioned health officials to improve children's health care. Health concerns that disproportionately affect African-Americans, but are also dangers to the general population, will be her priorities. The steady increase in the number of reported AIDS cases will prompt Elders to recommend an aggressive AIDS awareness program.

Cabinet Member: Clifton R. Wharton Jr., 66. Position: Deputy Secretary of State.

Analysis: Clifton Wharton will play a key role in developing foreign policy in the office of the Secretary of State. The Boston, Mass., native received his master's degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago. For several years, he worked to aid the poor in the developing countries of Asia and Latin America as a member of the Rockefeller Foundation Agricultural Development Council Inc. He went on to head the foundation for five years.

He became the first black to serve as president of a major predominantly white college when he was tapped for the post of president of Michigan State University. He was also the first black to serve as chancellor of the State University of New York. Most recently, Wharton served as chairman and CEO of the $112 billion Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association/College Retirement Equities Fund, one of the nation's largest private pension funds. In February, he was ranked among the BLACK ENTERPRISE 40 Most Powerful Black Executives.

Wharton will likely be the key adviser on foreign policy issues concerning developing Third World nations. His strong background in economics and development will also be sought for critical recommendations concerning the European Economic Community, and the emerging nations of Eastern Europe. As the world moves closer to a global economy, the emphasis is shifting to expertise in negotiating economic agreements--not arms agreements. Wharton's skills will place him at center stage.
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Author:Scott, Matthew S.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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