Speaker: Chuck Hagel, Former U.S. Secretary of Defense

Chuck Hagel was the 24th Secretary of Defense, serving from February 2013 to February 2015. He is the only Vietnam veteran and the first enlisted combat veteran to serve as Secretary of Defense. Over his tenure, he directed significant steps to modernize America’s partnerships and alliances, advance the rebalance in Asia-Pacific, bolster support for European allies, and enhance defense cooperation in the Middle East while overseeing the end of America’s combat mission in Afghanistan. In addition, he led major initiatives for service members and their families, including increasing resources for suicide prevention, combating sexual assault, and accounting for missing personnel. Further, Hagel improved partnerships with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, to include health record interoperability, service treatment record transferability, and continuity of mental health services and support. Hagel launched the Defense Innovation Initiative to better prepare the Pentagon for future threats, and enacted comprehensive reforms to the Nuclear Enterprise and Military Health system.

Some of Hagel’s current commitments include serving on the Board of Trustees of RAND; Advisory Boards of Deutsche Bank America and Corsair Capital; Senior Advisor to Gallup and to the McCarthy Group; Distinguished Executive in Residence at Georgetown University; Distinguished Statesman at the Atlantic Council; and Board of Directors of the American Security Project.

Prior to accepting this appointment, Hagel served as a distinguished professor at Georgetown University. He served on the Boards of Directors of Chevron Corporation and Zurich’s Holding Company of America; the Advisory Boards of Corsair Capital, Deutsche Bank America, M.I.C. Industries and was a senior advisor to Gallup. He was co-chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, a member of the Secretary of Defense’s Policy Board, and a member of the Secretary of Energy’s Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of Nuclear Power. He also served as chairman of the Atlantic Council, chairman of the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration Advisory Committee, and was a member of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) board of directors and the Systemic Risk Council.

Hagel served two terms in the United States Senate (1997-2009) representing the state of Nebraska. Hagel was a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations; Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; and Intelligence Committees. He chaired the Foreign Relations International Economic Policy, Export and Trade Promotion Subcommittee; and the Banking Committee’s International Trade and Finance, and Securities Subcommittees. Hagel also served as the chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and the Senate Climate Change Observer Group.

He is the author of the book, America: Our Next Chapter, a straight-forward examination of the current state of our nation that provides substantial proposals for the challenges of the 21st century. Alan Greenspan says, “America: Our Next Chapter should be required reading;” former World Bank President James Wolfensohn declares the book, “a must read.” Journalist and author Tom Brokaw states, “this is a book for people who care about their country,” and General Colin Powell says that Hagel “writes with insight, expertise, authority, and with the credentials that come from his dedicated service in war and peace.” Hagel was the subject of a 2006 book by University of Nebraska professor Charlyne Berens entitled, Chuck Hagel: Moving Forward.

Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Hagel worked in the private sector as the president of McCarthy & Co., an investment banking firm based in Omaha, Nebraska, and served as chairman of the Board of American Information Systems (AIS). Before joining McCarthy & Co., Hagel was president and chief executive officer of the Private Sector Council (PSC) in Washington, D.C.; Chief Operating Officer of the 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations (G-7 Summit); and president and chief executive officer of the World USO.

In the mid-1980’s, Hagel co-founded VANGUARD Cellular Systems, Inc., a publicly traded corporation. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated Hagel to serve as deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration, a nomination unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate. Hagel also served as deputy commissioner general of the United States for the 1982 World’s Fair. From 1977 through 1980, Hagel was manager of Government Affairs for The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company in Washington, D.C. From 1971 to 1977, he was chief of staff to Congressman John Y. McCollister (R-Nebraska). In 1969, Hagel worked as a newscaster and talk show host with radio stations KBON and KLNG in Omaha, Nebraska.

Hagel served in Vietnam with his brother Tom in 1968. They served side by side as infantry squad leaders with the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division. He earned many military decorations and honors, including two Purple Hearts.

Among awards and recognitions Hagel has received are: the National Intelligence Distinguish Public Service Medal (2015); the U.S. Army Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service (2015); the U.S. Air Force Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service (2015); the U.S. Navy Distinguished Public Service Award (2015); the Tong-Il Medal, Order of National Security Merit from the Republic of Korea (2015); the 2014 Intrepid Freedom Award; the 2014 Award for Distinguished International Leadership from the Atlantic Council; the Colombian Government’s ‘Faith in the Cause’ Medal; 2012 Global Leadership Award from the International Student House; World Affairs Council of Washington DC International Public Service Award in recognition of Outstanding Global Leadership; 2nd Degree Order of Dostyk Award from the President & Government of Kazakhstan; Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s Charles “Mac” Mathias Award; Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany; The Commander’s Cross With Star of the Order of Merit of The Republic of Poland; the 2010 Brown College Distinguished Alumni Award; the 2010 Clifford P. Case Professor of Public Affairs at Rutgers University, the 2010 Ralph J. Bunch Award for Diplomatic Excellence from the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training; the 2009 Citigroup Foundation Lecturer at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; the 2009 Third Annual Eugene J. McCarthy Lecturer at St. Johns University Minnesota; the 2009 Junior Statesman of the Year Foundation Award; the 2009 Committee on Education Funding Special Recognition Award; the 2008 Aspen Institute Strategy Group Leadership Award; the first annual Cordell Hull Award; the Horatio Alger Award from the Horatio Alger Association; the Vietnam Veterans of America Legislator of the Year Award; the Center for the Study of the Presidency’s Distinguished Service Medal; the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Golden Plow Award; the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Nebraska at Omaha; the Secretary of Defense’s Medal for Outstanding Civic Achievement; the first World USO Leadership Award; and the University of Nebraska-Kearney George W. Norris Distinguished Lecturer Award; 2008 Congressional Award from the Paralyzed Veterans of America; United Nations Association of the United States of America’s Congressional Leadership Award; 2008 Millard E. Tydings Award for Courage and Leadership in American Politics from the University of Maryland; National Urban League 2008 Congressional Leadership Award; 2007 Distinguished Service Award for International Statesmanship from the International Relations Council of Kansas City; 2006 Luminosity Award from the Bonnie J. Addario Breath Away From the Cure Foundation; 2006 National Farmers Union Golden Triangle Award; the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s 2006 Alumni Award for Excellence in Public Service; 2006 Don Wagner Leadership Award; the Omaha World-Herald’s 2005 “Midlander of the Year” Award; 2005 Marlin Fitzwater Excellence in Public Communication Award; 2005 Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Public Service Award; 2005 American Association of School Administrators Champion of Children Award; 2004 Edmund S. Muskie Distinguished Public Service Award; the Atlantic Council’s 2004 Award for Distinguished International Leadership; the Fragile X Research Foundation’s Research Beacon Award; the Boy Scouts of America’s Good Scout Award; the National Parent Teacher Association’s Outstanding Child Advocacy Award and the Committee for Education Funding’s Special Recognition Award; the University Club’s William Howard Taft Public Service Award; the European Institute’s Transatlantic Leadership Award; and the National School Board Association’s Special Recognition Award; the Small Business Administration’s Nebraska Veterans Advocate of the Year Award; USA Engage Congressional Leadership Award; Housing Policy Council Leadership Award; the 2008 Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Award; the 2008 and 2007 U.S. Chamber of Commerce “Spirit of Enterprise” Award; the 2006 Washington Coal Club Annual Achievement Award; the 82nd Airborne Division Association’s Recognition for the “National Airborne Day” Senate Resolution; membership in the Consumers for World Trade Hall of Fame; and the Friend of the Farm Bureau Award.

He has served on the advisory boards of many institutions including: Bread for the World, Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, Center for the Study of the Presidency, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, George C. Marshall Foundation, Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Global Strategy Forum, Global Zero, Hamilton Project, Initiative for Global Development, Lung Cancer Alliance, International Center for the Study Of Radicalization and Political Violence, National Bureau of Asian Research’s Next Generation Leadership Board, Ploughshares Fund, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, U.S. Institute of Peace Middle East Senior Working Group, U.S. Middle East Project, America Abroad Media, American Security Project, and The Washington Center. He was co-chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Corporate Council.

In the early 1990’s, Hagel served on the Board of Trustees of Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust, and in the 1980’s served as Chairman of the $240 million Agent Orange Settlement Fund.
His past participation in civic, educational, and charitable organizations has included membership on the boards of directors of: the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce; Chairman, 10th Anniversary Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial; the Friends of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; the Arlington National Cemetery Historical Society; Chairman of the Board of No Greater Love, Inc.; the USO’s World Board of Governors; the Private Sector Council; the Ripon Society; and the American Red Cross. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a life member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Hagel holds Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Georgetown University; the College of William and Mary; Marymount University; Creighton University; Bellevue University; Doane College; Midland Lutheran College; and North Central College.

A fourth generation Nebraskan, Hagel was born in North Platte, Nebraska. He graduated from St. Bonaventure High School, Columbus, Nebraska, the Brown Institute for Radio and Television, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Hagel and his wife, Lilibet, have a daughter, Allyn, and a son, Ziller.