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President Chopp's Charge to Christopher Van Hollen '83

Chris Van Hollen '83

Christopher Van Hollen, Jr., you are the U.S. Congressman from Maryland's 8th Congressional District and widely recognized as an astute lawmaker who has distinguished himself in legislative circles. You were an outspoken opponent of the Iraq war and are a dedicated proponent of campaign finance reform. In August of 2013, you filed a lawsuit to force the Internal Revenue Service to block tax-exempt social welfare organizations from engaging in overt political activity aimed at electing or defeating political candidates. Your work as a legislator, public policy expert, and social activist is guided by a set of values, in your own words, "To respect others as equals, always do your best, and try to make the world a better place." 

You were raised in a Quaker family in Southeast Asia and the Middle East by American parents working in the U.S. Foreign Service. You majored in philosophy at Swarthmore and began your activist career working with the Nuclear Weapons Education Project and with a group lobbying the College to divest its holdings in companies in South Africa. You graduated in 1983 and went on to study public policy and national security issues at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, earning a Masters degree in 1985, followed by a law degree from Georgetown University in 1990. 

You began your career in government as a legislative assistant and then served in Maryland's General Assembly until 2003, both in the House of Delegates and in the Senate. In 2002 you were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland and have been re-elected ever since. In 2008, you ascended to the chairmanship of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and helped the Democrats gain 21 seats. In 2012, you were chosen as the party's ranking member on the Budget Committee.

You currently serve on the House Ways and Means Committee, with a special interest in tax policy, Social Security, and Medicare. You also serve on the Committee on Oversight and Reform and are vice-chairman of the bipartisan Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus. Your work on the budget has helped to obtain funding for projects focused on education, biotechnology, public transportation, health care, environmental protection, and civil rights.

Your outstanding service has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Outstanding New Member of the Year Award from the Committee for Education Funding and the Congressional Champion for Real and Lasting Change Award from Save the Children. In 2010 Washington Magazine named you Best Metro Area Member of Congress and in 2012 you were the recipient of the Courageous Leadership Award from the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee. 

In a recent New Republic article, Robert Draper wrote that you are Vice President Biden's, and by extension the White House's, "most trusted interpreter of the House's shifting political crosscurrents," predicting that you are now in a position to become the next Democratic Speaker of the House. 

Chris Van Hollen, you are a dedicated activist and political thinker. Your leadership in the House has enabled numerous public policy programs benefiting those in need. Your work on the budget committee has helped this country avoid unending partisan conflict and move forward with responsible financial planning. Your courage in speaking up for diplomacy and against immediate deployment of American troops abroad has helped us seek peaceful solutions to difficult problems and save lives. You are a model of the dedicated ethical commitment that Swarthmore strives to engender in its students. 

Upon the recommendation of the faculty and by the power vested in me by the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I have the honor to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Laws.