Tom Perez MPP 1987 Selected as New DNC Chair

February 26, 2017
by Doug Gavel

Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who earned his MPP from Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) in 1987, has been selected as the new chairperson of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The election was held Saturday (Feb. 25) in Atlanta.

In his victory speech, Perez was quoted telling fellow party members that “we are all going to continue to be united in our values,” saying that the party’s “big tent” is one of its enduring assets. 

Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, Perez is the first Latino chair of the Democratic Party.  He began his career in public service as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice.  Later he served as Special Counselor for U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, and Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In 2002, Perez was elected councilman in Montgomery County, Maryland, where he advocated for improved transit systems. “The rubber meets the road at local government,” Perez told a Kennedy School reporter in 2003. “It's where you can make a difference in the lives of ordinary people.”

“I've learned that it's possible to make a difference in small ways that will never be reported in the newspapers-and that's fine. You create change by ensuring government works and is accessible to everyone,” he said.

A graduate of Brown University and the Kennedy School, Perez served as Secretary of Labor from 2013 until 2017.

As Chair of the DNC, Perez will have to overcome myriad challenges to unite his party at a time of division and angst.

“Tom Perez will unite us under that banner of opportunity, and lay the groundwork for a new generation of Democratic leadership for this big, bold, inclusive, dynamic America we love so much," said President Obama in a written statement. 

Official portrait of Labor Secretary Tom Perez

The official portrait of Tom Perez MPP 1987 while serving as U.S. Secretary of Labor

“I've learned that it's possible to make a difference in small ways that will never be reported in the newspapers-and that's fine. You create change by ensuring government works and is accessible to everyone,” said Perez.


John F. Kennedy School of Government 79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
617-495-1100 Get Directions Visit Contact Page