Type: School event
Host: Ford School

The J. Ira Harris Lecture

with special keynote by The Honorable Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Date & time

Feb 11, 2016-Jun 20, 2024, 4:00-11:37 pm EDT


By invitation only.

The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy hosts the J. Ira Harris Lecture, made possible with generous support from friends of J. Ira Harris (BBA ‘59, LLD Hon ‘12), in honor of his 75th birthday.

Keynote lecture by the Honorable Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

From Secretary Pritzker's bio

Penny Pritzker has served as the 38th U.S. Secretary of Commerce since being sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden on June 26, 2013. Secretary Pritzker is a key member of President Obama’s economic team, with 27 years of private sector experience. As the country’s chief commercial advocate, Secretary Pritzker leads the Administration’s trade and investment promotion efforts. Since taking office, she has traveled to 29 countries and 41 U.S. cities, and led four trade missions, including the first to the Middle East by a Commerce Secretary in 15 years and a commercial diplomacy mission to Ukraine, Poland, and Turkey at the request of President Obama.  In June 2014, she became the first-ever Commerce Secretary to travel to Burma, as part of her central role in the Administration’s strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. Her multiple trips to the region have strengthened and deepened our commercial relationships on the continent. A prominent advocate for America’s economic growth, Secretary Pritzker has initiated the United States High Level Economic Dialogue with Mexico, expanded our Foreign Commercial Service presence around the world, and worked with the American business community on urgent issues, such as the crisis in the Ukraine. 

In addition to traditional Commerce priorities like trade and manufacturing, Secretary Pritzker has expanded the Department’s focus to include, for the first time, skills and workforce development. She is leading the Commerce Department’s first-ever effort to ensure American workers have the skills they need to be competitive in the 21st century. Under her leadership, the Department has focused on coordinating employers with job-driven training initiatives through a $600 million investment from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) and apprenticeship programs to communities across the country. 

Before joining the Administration, Secretary Pritzker founded and served as advisory board chairman of Skills for America's Future, a national initiative that works directly with employers to develop training mechanisms to prepare workers with in-demand skills. In 2012, she also helped launch Skills for Chicagoland's Future, the first city model of Skills for America's Future. Secretary Pritzker is past chair of the Chicago Public Education Fund and a former member of the Chicago Board of Education. In recognition of her commitment to education and skills development, Secretary Pritzker in 2014 received the Harry S. Truman award from the American Association of Community Colleges. Secretary Pritzker founded and ran five different businesses in the real estate, hospitality, senior living, and financial services industries. She served as CEO of PSP Capital Partners and previously developed companies in diverse sectors such as luxury living for older adults, off-site airport parking, and agriculture. She has also served on the boards of a number of major corporations, such as Hyatt Hotels, La Salle Bank, and the William Wrigley Jr. Company, and she was Executive Chairman of Trans Union. 

During Secretary Pritzker’s tenure, the Commerce Department has taken a leading role in federal government efforts to engage the business community and other stakeholders through technology and social media. She is the first U.S. Cabinet Secretary to use Instagram, holds regular online dialogues, and created the Department’s first-ever Office of Digital Engagement, a platform that allows the agency to share more information about its resources to businesses of all sizes, and other customers. 

While this is Secretary Pritzker’s first government position, public service has been her lifelong passion. In 2012, she received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service, an honor given to individuals who have served with distinction in public life and have shown a special commitment to seeking out informed opinions and thoughtful views.