Lawrence H. Summers

Distinguished Senior Fellow

Lawrence H. Summers is a distinguished senior fellow at American Progress. Summers works with American Progress’s Economic Policy team and co-chairs an American Progress project with David Miliband—a member of the United Kingdom Parliament—aimed at spurring economic growth that is more broadly shared.

In 2009, then-President Barack Obama called on Summers to serve as the director of the National Economic Council. In this role, Summers led the president’s economic team as they guided the country out of the Great Recession. Upon his departure from the White House, then-President Obama said, “I will always be grateful that at a time of great peril for our country, a man of Larry’s brilliance, experience, and judgment was willing to answer the call and lead our economic team.”

Before serving as the director of the National Economic Council, Summers held numerous other senior policy positions in Washington, D.C., and held office as the 27th president of Harvard University. In 1999, the U.S. Senate confirmed Summers as the 71st secretary of the treasury. In that capacity, he served as the principal economic adviser to the president and as the chief financial officer of the U.S. government. During Summers’ tenure as secretary of the treasury, the United States used budget surpluses to repurchase Treasury debt for the first time since the 1920s and extended the life of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. Summers was a key figure domestically and internationally in securing significant expansion in debt relief for the world’s poorest and most indebted countries, which led to the increased availability of funds for primary health care and education in a number of countries. During Summers’ tenure, the United States marked the longest period of sustained economic growth in its history.

On July 1, 2001, Summers took office as the 27th president of Harvard University. During his tenure as Harvard’s president, Summers focused on laying the foundations for the university in the 21st century. His ambitious plans encompassed significant growth in the faculties, the further internationalization of the Harvard experience and expanded efforts in and enhanced commitment to the sciences. Summers was also responsible for a groundbreaking financial aid initiative that improved efforts to attract the strongest students regardless of financial circumstances and assured that students without substantial family income could attend the university at zero cost.

Currently, Summers is the Charles W. Eliot University Professor and the Weil Director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. Summers writes a regular column for the Financial TimesThe Washington Post, and Reuters. He consults widely with businesses and governments.

Summers is a recipient of numerous awards, including being the first social scientist ever to receive the annual Alan T. Waterman Award of the National Science Foundation, established by Congress to honor an exceptional young U.S. scientist or engineer whose work demonstrates originality, innovation, and a significant impact within one’s field. In 1993, Summers was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, given every two years to the outstanding American economist under the age of 40. As secretary of the treasury, Summers was awarded the department’s highest honor, the Alexander Hamilton Medal.