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Janet Napolitano, Arizona Governor and 1979 Santa Clara University Valedictorian Alumna, named to President-Elect Obama's National Security Team

Monday, Dec. 1, 2008

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Dec. 1 -- Arizona Governor and Santa Clara University alumna Janet Napolitano '79 has been named to President-elect Barack Obama's national security team, as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

In her position, Napolitano will lead a department with more than two dozen offices and agencies with multiple missions, including safeguarding the U.S. from terrorists, overseeing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and heading national disaster and hazard response and preparedness through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Pending the authorization of the U.S. Senate, Napolitano would be the first woman in that post, created by President George W. Bush and Congress after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Napolitano, 51, is accustomed to being a groundbreaker: She was SCU's first female valedictorian; Arizona's first female attorney general; and the first woman to chair the National Governors Association.

"Her valedictorian address was about the importance of changing rules," said Janet Flammang, Chair of SCU's political science department who taught Napolitano as a political science major. "But as much as she wants change, it always must be evidence-based, deliberate, and thoughtful."

A former mountain climber who has hiked the Himalayas and summited Mount Kilimanjaro, Napolitano was SCU's undergraduate commencement speaker in 2003. She urged grads to hold themselves to strict standards of honesty as they step out into the world. "The most important value of a Santa Clara education is the realization that education and intellect are incomplete without character," she said.

In fact, the values she learned at SCU, which strives to infuse ethics into all academic disciplines, have informed her leadership for years, she told Santa Clara Magazine in 2004. "Having an ethical core is important because you get pulled in so many directions. I ask myself, how will I explain this to my family and friends if they read about it?"

At SCU, she was valedictorian of her class, a member of the honors program, and was granted the prestigious Truman Scholarship in her senior year for her work in public service. As a private lawyer in 1991, she was a counselor to Anita Hill, who accused then-nominee for Supreme Court Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.

Napolitano was elected Arizona's Attorney General in 1998, after having been appointed a federal U.S. Attorney by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Immigration a Key Issue.

One of Napolitano's key duties at Homeland Security will be border protection, an issue with which she is acutely familiar as a governor in a key border state with Mexico.

In May, she addressed more than 300 students, faculty, staff, and others as keynote speaker at a Santa Clara University event, "Immigration: Where Do We Go From Here" co-sponsored by the University's Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and the Commonwealth Club of Silicon Valley. She spoke of a need for overhauling U.S. immigration policy, saying, "It's important to articulate what real impacts are on real people."

Napolitano has accumulated fervent critics and fans alike with her actions, such as supporting a guest-worker program, declaring a state of emergency at her state's border in 2005, and unsuccessfully demanding that the federal government reimburse Arizona's costs for dealing with undocumented immigrants who commit crimes.

She signed a law in 2007 to strip employers who knowingly hire illegal workers of their licenses, but was opposed to a voter-passed proposition that denies certain state welfare benefits to undocumented immigrants.

Chosen by Time Magazine in 2005 as one of America's Top Five Governors, Napolitano said she will stay on as governor until she is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, then turn the Governor's Office over to Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer.

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California's Silicon Valley, offers its 8,685 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master's and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master's universities, California's oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see www.scu.edu.

Media Contact: Deepa Arora - 408-554-5125; darora@scu.edu

Tags: Napolitano

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