Arthur W. Page Society

Pick Your Boss Wisely

Former IBM and Page Society colleague Bob Waite’s touching tribute to his former boss, Sen. Ed Brooke, R-MA, who passed away recently, got me thinking about the many great bosses I’ve been privileged to serve. Like my friend, Bob, I learned something from each of them, and probably “never quite expressed fully the gratitude [I] felt for them.”

By coincidence, the same day I saw Bob’s blog, I received a message from an another old colleague from what we called the golden era at USTR when we worked together for Ambassador Clayton Yeutter, the U.S. Trade Representative during President Reagan’s second term. My friend, Alan Holmer, shared the news that the University of Nebraska, where Clayton earned three degrees, is creating the Clayton K. Yeutter Institute for International Trade and Finance.

Perhaps stimulated by Bob’s reminiscence, I picked up the phone and called Clayton to tell him how thrilled I am about the Institute. He said, “It’s a chance to have a lasting impact long after I’m gone.”

“Clayton,” I responded, “it’s a great thing and it will have a lasting impact by training future generations, but your legacy was sealed many years ago by the trade liberalization that you created, as well as the impact you had on so many individuals, including me.”

I hope he understood my point: Clayton Yeutter was my mentor and my friend, as well as my boss. We traveled the world together to carry out his mission of launching and advancing the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations, which created the World Trade Organization and brought services and intellectual property into the world trade regime (which previously covered only goods) for the first time. These agreements, which were completed by the Clinton Administration in 1994, have created economic growth and opportunity for billions of people around the world. U.S. exports have more than doubled from $1 trillion when Clayton went to USTR to more than $2 trillion today, responsible for more than a third of our economic growth.

The odds against trade liberalization are steeply stacked. The Doha Round, which followed the Uruguay Round, has never been completed. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a huge regional trade agreement, has been under negotiation for a decade with no end in sight.

How did Clayton do it? Clayton bounded into rooms with his wide smile and booming voice, exuding confidence and optimism. Unbelievable persistence. The man earned his J.D. and PhD. in Agricultural Economics while running the family farm and earned the highest honors in both programs. Never discouraged. Never a negative word about anyone. Always looking for the answer, the speck of common ground upon which to build the next tiny step forward.

He wasn’t alone, of course, but without Clayton Yeutter there would have been no Uruguay Round and no agreement to expand world trade with all the wealth, growth and opportunity that has resulted. That’s a legacy worth celebrating.

Bob Waite’s advice to students is “Pick your boss wisely.” The day I picked Clayton Yeutter as my boss was a pretty good day.

A happy reunion with a great boss.
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