Janet Yellen in the Archives
President-elect Joe Biden unveiled his economic team on Monday, November 30, tapping Janet Louise Yellen, former chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, to lead the Treasury Department.
Poster, 2016 / I-House Archives
In 2016, International House had the distinct pleasure of hosting Yellen in “When the Federal Reserve Speaks…The World Listens.” The event was a live panel discussion where former Chairs Alan Greenspan, Paul Volcker, and Ben Bernanke joined then current Chair Janet Yellen. The panel was moderated by CNN international affairs expert and I-House Trustee Fareed Zakaria; James Gorman, Chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley and a 1987 Alumnus of International House NY, delivered opening remarks with reflections on his first days at I-House and in the United States.
It was the first time all four living Fed chairs appeared on the same stage for an interview. The group engaged in a lively discussion ranging from topics on interest rates, economic bubbles, and the challenges of communicating effectively and transparently. The Fed chairs also talked at length on how they handled the stresses of the crises they faced. In response to a comment about work ethic, Yellen admitted that she is often the first person on the plane and pointedly replied, “I am always prepared.” Before and after the event, Yellen traded jokes and pleasantries with the other chairs and took the time to speak with I-House Residents and answer questions.
Janet Yellen speaks with Residents, 2016/ I-House Archives
President Barack Obama nominated Janet Yellen on October 9, 2013, to become the chair of the Federal Reserve Board. The Federal Reserve System is the central bank of the U.S. It supervises the nation’s largest banks and provides financial services to the U.S. government. Although Congress appoints its members, its structure makes it independent from political influences. The position is considered the most powerful single actor in the U.S. economy, and thus the world.
Yellen succeeded Ben Bernanke and was to remain a board member until 2024. Yellen has always kept in mind how the economy affects everyday working families and is a long-standing advocate of financial regulation. As vice-chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors from 2010 to 2014, she helped oversee the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. As Chair of the Federal Reserve, Yellen led monetary policy at a crucial time. The economy was still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis. Her tenure was also noted for job and wage growth, both of which occurred while she maintained low-interest rates. Obama called Yellen, who is the first woman to lead the central bank, “one of the nation’s foremost economists and policymakers,” who is “renowned for her good judgment.” Her first term began on February 1, 2014. In November 2017, President Donald Trump decided against offering her a second term and nominated Jerome Powell to replace her.
Janet Yellen, 2016 / I-House Archives
Janet Yellen, Paul Volker, and Ben Bernanke in the Soros Room, 2016/ I-House Archives
Yellen’s nomination to Biden’s economic team came after running mate Kamala Harris made history as the first woman, first Black person, and first person of South Asian descent to win the vice presidency. If confirmed by the Senate, Yellen will be the first woman ever to serve as the Secretary of the Treasury and the first person to have held all three of the top U.S. policy positions in economics — chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, chair of the Federal Reserve, and now Treasury secretary. In a tweet following the announcement, Yellen wrote,
“We face great challenges as a country right now. To recover, we must restore the American dream—a society where each person can rise to their potential and dream even bigger for their children. As Treasury Secretary, I will work every day towards rebuilding that dream for all.”
The International House Archives is proud to hold the story of Yellen’s visit, along with almost 100 years of equally meaningful material. Important things continue to happen at I-House, and we are now, more than ever, in a better position to communicate and preserve these vital records.
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