Obama's LSE alumni

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Photograph of Dr Peter OrszagTwo LSE economics professors have paid tribute to the brilliance of Barack Obama's new budget director Peter Orszag (pictured left), who is one of an impressive retinue of LSE alumni appointed to the president-elect's administration.

Dr Orszag, a Princeton graduate who studied economics at LSE as a Marshall scholar, earning a Masters degree in 1992 and a PhD in 1997, has been named director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama administration.

Aged just 40, he will be a key member of the president-elect's economic team, advising him on a variety of issues including federal spending programmes and managing the federal budget. His job, Obama said, will be to eliminate 'those programmes we don't need and insisting that those we do need operate in a cost-effective way.'

Photograph of Professor Emeritus Lord Richard LayardProfessor Emeritus Lord Richard Layard (pictured right) was so impressed with Orszag's work as a Masters student that he invited him to Moscow in 1992 in the early post-Soviet period to work on the influential monthly publication Russian Economic Trends.

'I invited him to Russia because he was a brilliant, outstanding chap,' said Professor Layard. 'He spent a year with me and really developed the publication. It was the basic document that all western correspondents and plenty of Russians used to understand what was going on in the Russian economy.

'He was directly advising Russian policy-makers on how to control inflation. He was also extremely skilful politically and formed close relationships in particular with Andrei Illarionov, the economics adviser to the Russian Prime Minister.

'It would have been impossible without him. As well as being brilliant, he had an extraordinary level of organisation. In fact he was the most organised person I have ever known.

'After going to work for the Council of Economic Advisers, he came back to LSE to do a PhD in Dynamic analysis of regime shifts, which he did extraordinarily quickly.

'I remember him as a wonderful colleague and a complete all-round person, very lovely to work with and very good at getting on with people. When he wasn't working, he was a very keen runner and would run for miles and miles.

'Princeton and LSE obviously gave him a grasp of how intellectual analysis could solve human problems and his experience in Russia was good training in how to apply analysis in different circumstances.

'He's very much the right kind of person for Obama, with very sensible, balanced views which are relevant to the problem in hand. I wasn't surprised at his appointment as I felt that it was very predictable.'

Photograph of Professor Danny QuahProfessor Danny Quah (pictured left) taught macroeconomics to Dr Orszag when Orszag was a PhD student in 1993 to 1994.

'He was always interested in macro public finance which is very much related to what he's been doing in different public offices in Washington DC,' explained Professor Quah.

'It was clear from early on that he was someone who is very intelligent, driven and committed to doing good for society. I'm glad he is where he is now. It is well suited to his personality, intelligence and drive.

'From when he was an undergraduate, he was committed to public service. He's also genuinely a really nice guy. He got along with people and he will definitely do good work.

'I think his experience at the LSE shows that PhD training is not necessarily just for preparing for a career as an academic. The knowledge we transmit and the conversations we have in the LSE economics department will transfer into the type of good policy work that Peter will do.'

Dr Orszag's supervisor during his PhD was Charlie Bean who is now deputy governor of the Bank of England. During the Clinton administration, Dr Orszag served as special assistant to the President for Economic Policy (1997-1998), and as senior economist and senior adviser on the Council of Economic Advisers (1995-1996).

Fellow alumni appointed to the Obama team include Peter Rouse senior advisor to the president, having served as his chief of staff when he was senator (MA 1970) and Mona Sutphen as deputy chief of staff (MSc Politics of the World Economy 1997). Also appointed was Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, and head of Obama's new economic recovery advisory board, who was a Rotary Foundation Fellow at LSE from 1951 to 1952. Larry Summers, who was a visiting academic for six months in 1987, will be head of the White House's National Economic Council. Jason Furman, who earned a masters at the LSE (MSc Economics 1993), is a senior economic adviser to Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign. James A Schear (PhD International Relations 1983) is deputy assistant secretary of defense for partnership strategy and stability operations, and Bradley H Roberts (MSc International Relations 1981) who is deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy.


LSE events

The School is hosting two events this term to coincide with the appointment of the new US president:

The Reality of Hope: Obama and Europe after the Election, on Wednesday 21 January, Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, 6.30-8pm

Roundtable discussion with Professor Mick Cox, professor of International Relations and director of IDEAS at LSE, Robert Kagan, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House and Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator at the Financial Times.

As Barack Obama prepares for the daunting inbox of challenges awaiting him after his inauguration, his administration faces both unprecedented enthusiasm and expectations from Europe. The question remains, however, as to what extent the US and Europe are ready to fulfill each other's expectations, interests and needs for collaboration to address global issues like stability in South East Asia and Afghanistan, peace in the Middle East, climate change, and rebuilding the global economy.

Obama and the Empire of Liberty, on Thursday 5 February, Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, 6.30-8pm

A new president. A new era? David Reynolds, professor of international history at Cambridge University, will introduce the Obama presidency against the backdrop of America's epic, tangled history.

19 January 2009