John Ashcroft, the former Attorney General of the United States who drew the ire of civil rights proponents for his support of the controversial U.S. Patriot Act, will speak on “Leadership in Challenging Times” when he comes to Lehigh on Thursday, April 24.
Ashcroft’s talk, which is free and open to the public, will be at 7:30 p.m. in Packard Auditorium.
In his talk, the former Missouri governor and U.S. Senator, is expected to reflect on “principled leadership and the durable integrity of convictions required to make tough decisions.” He will speak about lessons learned through service, the great promise of America and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, according to Chris Huether ’09, president of the College Republicans, a primary sponsor of the event.
Ashcroft was named to the position of Attorney General on December 22, 2000, just days after the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended the contested presidential race. At that time, President George W. Bush described Ashcroft as “a man of great integrity, a man of great judgment and a man who knows the law.”
Upon confirmation by the Senate by a vote of 58-42, Ashcroft pledged to renew the war on drugs, reduce the incidence of gun violence and combat discrimination so no American feels outside the protection of the law, according to his official biography.
He served one full term, announcing his resignation from the post in November, 2004. He officially stepped down on February 3, 2005, following the Senate confirmation of former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez as the next Attorney General.
Born in Chicago in 1942, Ashcroft was raised in Springfield, Miss., before enrolling at Yale University, where he graduated with honors in 1964. He received his J.D. from the University of Chicago in 1967. He began his career of public service in 1973 as Missouri Auditor and was later elected to two terms as the state's Attorney General, earning a reputation as a leader able to find common ground between political rivals.
He was elected governor of Missouri in 1984, and held that post until 1993. According to his official biography, he counts among his accomplishments balancing eight consecutive budgets and serving as chairman of the Education Commission of the States.
Ashcroft also spearheaded the state's efforts to reduce the use of illegal drugs. In 1991, the non-partisan National Governors Association elected him chairman.
He was elected to the Senate in 1994, where he focused on reducing crime—particularly the trafficking of illegal drugs—and improving the quality of public education and safeguarding rights of crime victims.
He co-sponsored the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and fought to toughen penalties for gun crimes by substantially increasing mandatory minimum prison sentences for the criminal misuse of firearms. During his time in the Senate, Ashcroft served as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee.
Prior to entering public service, Ashcroft taught business law at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield. He authored the book Lessons from a Father to His Son
, a tribute to his father, and co-authored multiple editions of two college law textbooks with his wife, Janet.
In addition to the College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation, several Lehigh-related groups and individuals are sponsoring Ashcroft’s talk, including the Lehigh Patriot, the Visiting Lectures Committee, the Dean of Students Office, the political science department, the Tresolini Lecture Fund, the Student Senate and Herbert E. Ehlers ’62.