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2019 Commencement Speaker
Kasim Reed is an American attorney and politician who served two terms as the 59th mayor of the city of Atlanta from 2010 to 2018. Reed is a graduate and proud alumnus of Howard University where he received his Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor degrees and an honorary Doctor of Laws. As an undergraduate member of Howard University's Board of Trustees, he created a fundraising program entitled The Independence Initiative that has contributed more than $12 million to the University’s endowment since its inception. Reed became the institution’s youngest general trustee in June 2002 and remains a dedicated trustee emeritus.
As mayor, Reed increased core city services while reducing Atlanta’s spending during the worst recession in 80 years. His Administration led the city to unprecedented growth, fiscal stability and international respect. Upon entering office, Reed hired more than 900 police officers, creating the largest police force in Atlanta’s history. He oversaw a 37 percent drop in crime during his tenure. He also improved fire rescue response times and re-opened all of the city’s previously shuttered recreation centers as safe havens for young people. During his tenure, he successfully led a series of sweeping reforms to address the city’s $1.5 billion unfunded pension liability. Though he began his term managing a $2.2 billion overall budget and facing a $48 million budget shortfall, under Reed’s leadership, Atlanta produced eight years of balanced budgets with no property tax increases, increased its cash reserves from $7.4 million to $200 million, and received nine consecutive credit rating increases resulting in an AA+ credit rating from Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch. As a result, at the conclusion of Reed’s service, the City of Atlanta was on its best financial footing in 40 years.
He is a graduate member of the Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowship Class of 2007, Leadership Georgia Class of 2000 and Leadership Atlanta Class of 1998. Reed was a prime-time speaker at the 2016 National Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. In 2011, Governing Magazine named Reed one of the top state-and-local government officials of the year. Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times columnist and author of That Used to Be Us, called Reed “inspiring” and labeled him as “one of the best of this new breed of leaders.” And David Axelrod, former Chief Strategist for President Barack Obama, called him “the most dynamic Mayor in America.” In 2013, he was ranked among the top 10 most influential African Americans in the nation by The Root. His civic leadership and service have been nationally recognized on news outlets and programs such as Meet the Press, MSNBC, CNN, FOX and CNBC; and in publications including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.
Reed lives in Atlanta with wife, Sarah-Elizabeth and their daughter, Maria Kristan.