Text Former Secretary of State James Baker is one of the most accomplished political operators in modern history. The face of American power for more than three decades, Baker ran five successive Republican campaigns. He won three of them and was awarded the choicest jobs in politics. Serving in senior government positions, Baker successfully oversaw the country's foreign policy during the end of the Cold War, as well as during the First Persian Gulf War. As communism fell, the statesman traveled to 90 foreign countries, helping the U.S. confront the unprecedented challenges and opportunities of the time. In 1991 Baker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and has been the recipient of many honorary academic degrees and awards for years of distinguished public service.
Baker's interest in politics goes back to as early as 1949 when he enrolled at Princeton University. At first, he was, in his own words, "focused more on making grades, playing tennis and rugby, and chasing girls — not necessarily in that order — than on U.S. foreign policy." But soon he found his interest turning to history and the classics, leading him to complete a 188-page senior thesis about parliamentary politics in Britain in the two preceding decades. Baker was a top student and in 1952 he graduated cum laude with an A.B. in history from the Ivy League school.
Despite his historic achievements, Baker's ongoing connection with his alma mater goes back decades. In 2002 he was selected as a speaker for Princeton's Class Day, as well as awarded an honorary membership to the group of graduating seniors who cited Baker's excellent track record as a major figure in international affairs. That same year, Baker made big news on campus when he announced he was donating a collection of his papers to the university. The collection (which includes invaluable correspondence, memos, audio tapes, and speeches) documents nearly every aspect of Baker's extensive career in politics and public service from 1975 to 1993.
According to Baker, one of the main reasons for choosing Princeton was because of his appreciation for his alma mater. He then elaborated, "...which was not only my alma mater, but also that of both my father and my daughter. The education I received at Princeton provided a strong foundation for my life, both as a private citizen and as a public servant."
The prized collection, which was supposed to remain closed until his 100th birthday, was suddenly made public in 2017 by Baker, who is fast approaching his 70th year as a proud Princetonian.