Granholm, who was elected the first female governor of Michigan in 2002, is also a 1987 graduate of Harvard Law School. Many consider the Canadian-born governor, who delivered a prime-time speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, to be her party’s answer to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Michigan is the poster child for the deindustrialization of America,” Granholm said of her state, whose once-strong auto industry has suffered from jobs moving overseas.
To deal with the effects of global competition, Granholm said, she has aimed to diversify the Michigan economy and to place a greater focus on education.
Her education policy features a scholarship program that will give every high school graduate $4,000 to complete two years of higher education, either at a community college or a four-year program.
Granholm said she hopes the scholarship program will influence public views of education. In previous decades, Michiganders and migrants to the state assumed good auto industry jobs would be available to those without a college degree.
“The question for us is how to change people’s paradigm,” Granholm said. “What was good for the parents is not good for the child.”
Rahul Prabhakar ’09 said he agreed that education reform is essential in easing the transition to a more technological economy.
“[Granholm’s] emphasis on education meets the needs of a factory line that is changing from standard engines to fuel cells,” Prabhakar said.
Granholm also commented in her speech on her position as Michigan’s first female governor.
“Once [a woman] makes it through the glass ceiling, [she] has the obligation to reach down and pull others through,” she said.
And women need to “be comfortable with being powerful,” she added.
Katie A. Beck ’08, a Michigan resident and also a Crimson editor, called Granholm “an amazing role model for women and people who are interested in politics.”
Before her speech, Granholm was honored by the Kennedy School of Government with the first-ever Pathfinder Award.
Kennedy School Lecturer in Public Policy Jerry E. Mechling ‘65 said the award will honor public officials who govern with an appreciation of global issues, and especially an understanding of the increasing importance of technology.