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Public Servant

Former Secretary of Homeland Security accepts honorary degree

The nation's first Secretary of Homeland Security, former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, holds an honorary degree from Cal U.

Ridge was awarded a Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa, at a formal academic ceremony organized in conjunction with the Department of Criminal Justice's 10th annual Homeland Security Conference.

Ridge delivered the keynote address at the conference, "A Community-Based Approach to Fighting Terror Crime."

In his talk, Ridge recalled his appointment as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security in 2001, when the country was "still feeling the aftershocks" of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created in 2003, and President George W. Bush selected Ridge to lead the Cabinet-level department.

Prior to 9/11, Ridge had represented Pennsylvania's 21st District in the U.S. House of Representatives and served two terms as governor. After leaving public service he founded Ridge Global, which works with corporate leaders to decrease security risks.

Speaking to an audience that included Cal U students, criminal justice faculty and law enforcement professionals, Ridge stressed the importance of local law enforcement, then and now, in keeping the nation safe.

"We may have great federal law enforcement agencies, but ultimately you can't beat terrorism from inside the (Washington, D.C.) Beltway," he said.

"Local police know the rhythm of the communities they serve. Until we connect the federal government with the local government, we will never maximize our ability to combat terrorism."

He urged the audience to ignore the most strident voices on cable TV and social media.

"We shouldn't be breathless about any of these challenges," he said. "Yes, there are risks, but they are manageable."

Before conferring the honorary degree, University President Geraldine M. Jones noted that Ridge had spoken to graduating students in 1996, at the University's 149th Commencement.

"We can never repay Secretary Ridge for all he has done and continues to do for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and our country," President Jones said.

"It is our hope that this honorary degree will serve as a reminder to all that California University of Pennsylvania truly appreciates his devotion to public service." 

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