By Ashley Herron, ’13
Andrew Natsios’ distinguished career in public service spans almost 40 years. He served as President George W. Bush’s Special Envoy to Sudan, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), administrator of their Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, chairman and CEO of Boston’s “Big Dig”, Vice President of World Vision and a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He comes to the Bush School from the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University where he taught for six years.
When he began his career as a state elected official, he thought he would spend his entire career in Massachusetts. However, his career took an unexpected turn when his mentor recommended he apply to USAID in 1988. He originally applied for a position in Latin American democracy development, but he was instead hired for a job he didn’t want as the Director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. In the first week, he helped provide medical treatment for children injured in a Russian train crash, attempted to get medical care into China for student protesters injured in Tiananmen Square and met John Garang, leader of the Southern Sudanese rebellion. He decided to stay. Of this role, he says, “We saved millions of people’s lives. That has to be, for anybody, particularly satisfying.”
On Public Service
Professor Natsios joins the Bush School with particular affection for its founder and its philosophy. He has been connected with President Bush for 33 years when he and Andrew Card ran his 1980 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. He says that he “agrees with the man who brought me to Washington. Public service is a noble calling,” adding with a smile that it is not one for the fainthearted. He calls the school Bush’s greatest institutional legacy since leaving the presidency.
In the spring, he plans to teach a course on Contemporary Issues in International Development focusing on the theory and practice of development. He is currently at work on a book on this subject and notes how living in College Station allows him to work on it in relative tranquility. Based on his remarkable career, he advises Bush School students to take opportunities as they come, even if they are unexpected. “You can never tell where career is going to take you. You can have a plan, but be flexible enough to realize that if someone offers you a position, accept the position if looks interesting, even if it’s a stretch for you.”
Professor Natsios’ book recommendations
- Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress by Lawrence E. Harrison and Samuel P. Huntington
- The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Collier
- Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History by Douglass C. North, John Joseph Wallis and Barry R. Weingast.
- Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
- The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Colonel Roosevelt, and Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris.