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Harvard Law School Lecturer and Alum Ronald A. Klain Named Biden’s Chief of Staff

Harvard Law School lecturer and alumnus Ronald A. Klain was appointed President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s chief of staff this month.
Harvard Law School lecturer and alumnus Ronald A. Klain was appointed President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s chief of staff this month. By Camille G. Caldera
By Raquel Coronell Uribe and Kelsey J. Griffin, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard Law School lecturer and alumnus Ronald A. Klain was appointed President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s chief of staff earlier this month.

In a Nov. 11 announcement, Biden appointed Klain as White House Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President. Klain — who is no stranger to the White House, managing contagious disease outbreaks, or navigating contested elections — will be responsible for overseeing the Executive Office of the President and serving as a senior advisor.

He previously worked alongside Biden as his first Chief of Staff in 2009. The two had worked together during Biden’s tenure as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Klain was the committee’s Chief Counsel.

Klain also played a role during Biden’s 1988 and 2008 campaigns. Most recently, he served as a senior advisor in Biden’s 2020 campaign.

“Ron has been invaluable to me over the many years that we have worked together, including as we rescued the American economy from one of the worst downturns in our history in 2009 and later overcame a daunting public health emergency in 2014,” Biden said in a press release.

Klain’s commitment to public service extends beyond his time working for Biden. He served as Chief of Staff for Vice President Al Gore as well as Chief of Staff and Counselor to Attorney General Janet Reno.

During the 2014 Ebola epidemic, President Barack H. Obama appointed Klain as the White House Ebola Response Coordinator — a role which earned Klain the moniker “Ebola Czar.”

Law School professor Einer R. Elhauge ’83 — one of Klain’s classmates — praised his qualifications and character, describing him as the ideal chief of staff.

“Ron Klain is brilliant, astute, and level-headed,” Elhauge wrote in an email. “If one wanted to design the perfect chief-of-staff, he would be it.”

At Harvard, Klain has lectured at the Law School since 2017. He graduated magna cum laude from the school in 1987, winning the Sears Prize for highest grade point average in 1985. Klain was also an Editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Klain credits several professors at Harvard Law School as being “incredibly influential” in his life, including Martha L. Minow and Laurence H. Tribe ’62.

Minow, who was dean of the Law School for eight years, lauded Klain in an email.

“Ron Klain is a person of enormous integrity, talent, and judgment,” she wrote. “I can’t imagine a person with more effectiveness, and wisdom ready to lead during both tough times and good times.”

Klain credits Tribe as the most impactful figure from Harvard Law School to guide him in his career.

“No Harvard professor has been as influential to me as Larry Tribe, who has been a mentor, a counselor, and a friend,” Klain wrote in an email. “Whenever I face a hard legal question, Larry is the first person I call.”

Tribe praised Klain on Twitter following his appointment.

“Ideally suited to this crucial role, Ron is a man for all seasons,” Tribe wrote. “He has the brilliance, experience, wit, political savvy and wisdom this nearly impossible role demands.”

Stepping into the role of a mentor himself, Klain wrote in a Oct. 28 email to The Crimson that he has helped several of his students get jobs on the Biden campaign. When reflecting on the amount of Harvard affiliates associated with the campaign, Klain said the correlation came as no surprise.

“It’s no surprise that the kind of people who teach and attend Harvard would be involved in the Biden campaign: they are active, public-minded, and determined to change things for the better,” Klain wrote.

Despite Klain’s strong ties to Harvard, he wrote that one of his favorite things about the Biden campaign was the mix of people from many institutions.

“What I love about the Biden campaign is that it is a mix of people from all sorts of institutions – people from all walks of life,” Klain wrote. “Joe Biden likes to point out that – if he wins – he will be the first public college alum in 40 years to win the Presidency, and Senator Harris is the first HBCU alum on a national ticket.”

Klain said in a press release announcing his appointment that he is honored to continue to work with Biden and to assemble a diverse team of his own within the Executive Office.

He also said he looks forward to “heal the divides in our country.”

“I think Donald Trump has been a horrible President – one of the very worst in history – and the people who have played a role in getting him elected and trying to get him reelected can explain their own choices,” he said. “I’m happy to explain mine.”

—Staff writer Kelsey J. Griffin can be reached at kelsey.griffin@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @kelseyjgriffin.

—Staff writer Raquel Coronell Uribe can be reached at raquel.coronelluribe@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @raquelco15.

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