By Theresa Diffendal, Staff Writer
Haverford College alumnus Bruce Andrews ‘90 returned to his alma mater Jan. 25 to talk about his work on Capitol Hill, including his role as Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce under President Obama.
Attending Haverford was a happy accident for him: “I visited Haverford because I went to interview at Swarthmore.” Nonetheless, Andrews had a “great experience” at the college. But rather than attending law school immediately after, Andrews followed his dream to “seek Washington D.C.”
“Don’t go to law school right out of college,” he cautioned the group.
Following his own advice, Andrews worked on Capitol Hill on the staff of Senator Alan Cranston (D-CA). He worked in an office that oversaw the 30 million residents of California but quickly discovered he wanted a “smaller environment with a greater opportunity to do interesting stuff.”
Andrews left Washington to pursue a law degree as a part-time student at Georgetown University Law Center. He split his time between school and working as the Legislative Director for Congressman Tim Holden (D-PA). He thought about creating a law-firm after graduation, but he “didn’t love the business aspect of it … I didn’t love being somewhere where each day I had four or five different clients instead of one thing I was working on.”
After working in a public relations program for seven years, Andrews joined the Ford Motor Company as the Vice President of Governmental Affairs shortly before the economic recession hit. He recounted how a highly-trusted economist foresaw the crash, sharing her ominous words: “doom is ahead.” Andrews recalled his time at Ford following the crash as “one of the most challenging,” with “100,000 jobs on the line” in the immediate aftermath.
He had another brief stint in the private sector as General Counsel for the United States Senate Committee before dealing with credit card scams as Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Andrews became animated as he recounted enacting public policy to outlaw the practice, saying it was exciting that he could see a problem and fix it and make a real impact on people’s lives.
Former President Barack Obama named Andrews Deputy Secretary of Commerce on July 24, 2014. As Deputy Secretary, Andrews oversaw the entire Department of Commerce, whose mission is to “promote job creation and improved living standards for all Americans.”
He attributed his success to hard work and perseverance and shared a few of his mottos with the students, such as, “I always trusted my gut instinct” and “build relationships with people.” When questioned on his views about the recent presidential election, Andrews said, “elections don’t always go how you think they’re gonna go.”
What comes next for the former head of a U.S. department? Presumably Andrews will go back to the public sector, but nothing is set in stone. He mused in parting, “for the first time I haven’t known what’s next.”