Ron Kirk Biography
Ron Kirk (Ronald Kirk ) is an American lawyer, politician and member of the Democratic Party who served as the 57th Mayor of Dallas.
He was nominated to serve as U.S. Trade Representative by President Barack Obama and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a 92–5 confirmation vote. Later on January 22, 2013, Ron announced that he would be stepping down as U.S. Trade Rep.
He was born in Austin, Texas, and is a graduate of Austin’s John H. Reagan High School, Austin College, and the University of Texas School of Law.
From 1994 to 1995, Ron worked as the Secretary of State of Texas, until he was elected as the Mayor of Dallas, where he served from 1995 to 2002 and was the first African-American to hold either of those positions.
In 2002, he an for the United States Senate but was defeated by Republican opponent John Cornyn after which he worked as a partner at the Houston-based law firm Vinson & Elkins and worked as a lobbyist for Energy Future Holdings and Merrill Lynch.
Ron Kirk Age
Ron is 69 years old as of 2023. He was born on June 27, 1954.
Ron is married to Matrice Ellis-Kirk, managing partner for RSR Partners and chairman of the AT&T Performing Arts Center board of directors. The couple has two daughters.
Ron Kirk Senate
Ron resigned in 2001 as mayor of Dallas in order to run for the Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican Phil Gramm. He was facing then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn and Ron lost with 43 percent of the vote to Cornyn’s 55 percent.
U.S. Trade Representative
Before Ron was appointed in the position of Trade Representative, there had been speculations that he would be appointed as Secretary of Transportation by President Barack Obama.
His appointment drew criticism from opponents of free trade policies since Ron is a supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
His nomination would later run into further controversy when it was revealed that he owed $9,975 in back taxes and as compensation for speeches he gave from 2004 to the present, he had $37,750 of payments made directly to a scholarship fund at Austin College.
Ron should have included the $37,750 payments with his gross income and then claimed a charitable deduction for the same amount.
He also claimed deductions for three years of season tickets to the Dallas Mavericks as qualifying entertainment expenses.
In order to claim a qualifying entertainment expense, the Internal Revenue Service requires written documentation of the time, place, business purpose, name, and business relationship of the person being entertained, records which Ron did not keep for almost half of the basketball games and his deductions for tax and accounting fees were also too large,
On March 18, 2009, the U.S. Senate confirmed Ron as United States Trade Representative, with a vote of 92 in favor and five opposed and he was sworn in the same day.
He was formally sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden on March 20, 2009. Ron is the first person of African American descent to hold the position of United States Trade Representative.
Work as U.S. Trade Representative
As the U.S. Trade Representative, Ron received the formal title of Ambassador and was a member of the President’s Cabinet.
Most of his work as reported, focused on issues relating to the development and enforcement of intellectual property law in the United States and abroad, especially as they relate to trade policy.
This work included the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and Trans-Pacific.
Ron announced that he would be stepping down as the U.S. Trade Representative on January 22, 2013.
Ron’s net worth is under review.
Ron Kirk Interview
Adopted From: https://www.npr.org
Interviewer: Ambassador Kirk has announced that he will leave the administration shortly. But he’s with us now from his offices in Washington, D.C. Ambassador Kirk, welcome to the program. Thanks so much for joining us.
Ron Kirk: Michel, thank you so much for having me.
Interviewer: Can we ask you why you wanted to fill this role? This is a particularly difficult balancing act. I think many trade reps have found, particularly in a Democratic administration, where you have to assuage members of the president’s constituency who are very skeptical of globalization, global trade particularly. But you also have to, you know, advance the interest of the business community overseas. Why did you want to do this job?
Ron Kirk: For all the reasons you articulated in your question, Michel. I sort of wanted this challenge of helping the American public get over their – you used the word skepticism, but when we came in, I don’t think it’d be an understatement to say almost hostility to trade. And some of it was out of fear but some was legitimate.
But people had come to believe that when it came to their notion of global trade, the United States had more than held up our end of the bargain.
We’d opened up our markets, products, and goods from all over the world but they felt like other countries were gaming us and that in fact we were swapping cheaper, as I like to say, laptops and iPads and t-shirts. But the jobs, in their mind, were going to Mexico or China or some other country.
Interviewer:How did you decide to set your priorities? There are people who will say enforcement first, trade deals later, expanding trade later. There are other people who feel the priorities should be opposite. How did you decide what to prioritize?
Ron Kirk: Well, one, I was a bit advantaged. I have to be careful how I say this because, one, first of all, I work for the president and my office is, you mentioned, is one that many Americans are not very familiar with. They don’t know who the U.S. trade representative is or where we’re housed or what we do.
But, one, I work directly in the office of the president so I have the advantage of knowing what our overall agenda is, part of the administration’s overall goals and efforts.
And when we came into office, if you recall, job one was to keep the economy from going over a cliff. So the president and Congress were immediately focused on saving the economy, keeping the banks from going (unintelligible) and doing other things.
That gave me the space to then begin to address some of the concerns that you raise, particularly about enforcement.
And it allowed us to start with what I call the low hanging fruit of addressing concerns and some of these fears that people had by stepping up our enforcement while at the same time building the relationships, investing the time that I needed to be able to later pass those important agreements that you mentioned with Korea, Panama, and Columbia.
Interviewer:If you’re just joining us, we are speaking with outgoing United States trade representative Ambassador Ron Kirk. That is a Cabinet-level position.
It requires Senate confirmation. Ambassador Kirk is the first African-American to serve in that role, among his other accomplishments. Can I ask you about that, by the way, Ambassador Kirk?
You know, it’s interesting that from the president on down, a number of the president’s high profile African-American appointees have stumbled on the issue of race at some point, or have been deemed to have done so.
I am thinking about the attorney general, Eric Holder’s, comments about – early in his term about how we are a nation of cowards when it comes to race.
There is – some people feel that kind of the reaction to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is – some of the reception that she has received for being abrasive, some people feel is due in part to her race as well as her gender.
And of course the president continually faces this sticky wicket around how much he talks about his race. I mean a lot of his African-American constituents would like him to talk more about it.
Some of his constituents of other ethnicities would prefer that he not. You are one of the few who’s never been – there’s never been any drama related to you around race.
I’m interested in whether you feel your race has helped, hurt, has had any impact at all.
Ron Kirk: Well, you know, I’m advantaged by a couple of things. One, and you mentioned in your introduction that I had the privilege of being elected the first African-American mayor of Dallas in 1995. Not a city that most people thought of at the time as the most progressive.
But I also had the advantage – and this is my two-minute Black History Month speech – I’d tell people I was the fifth first black mayor of Dallas.
Because people don’t realize that Maynard Jackson, who later went on to become the mayor of Atlanta; Tom Bradley, who was the first black mayor of Los Angeles; Willie Brown, who was mayor of San Francisco; and Emanuel Cleaver were all either born in Dallas or within 30 miles of it. But because of Jim Crow, under which I grew up, they all fled Texas.
And so I was privileged to do it and I had an opportunity to be mentored by Mayor Jackson in particular, who just helped me understand that no matter what I did, people would have the common(ph) narrative that you just gave.
If I did anything to help black people, white folks would say why are you only doing this for black people? And that no matter what I did, black folks would say you didn’t do enough.
And so what he counseled me is you go be the best mayor you can be. Because if you’re only obsessed with, you know, trying to be – and I didn’t know how to tell people I don’t know how to be a black mayor. I thought I knew how to be a pretty good mayor.
Interviewer:Well, of course I want to ask what’s next for you. I noted that you are quoted in an interview as saying – when you were saying that you were about ready to move on – I miss my house. I miss my family. That must be some car. What kind of car is that?
Ron Kirk: Well, it doesn’t matter.
Ron Kirk: It’s in Texas so you know it’s got to be some sort of truck. I call it my Texas Prius.
Ron Kirk: Because it’s not a Suburban, it’s a Range Rover. But it ain’t about the car. It is – listen, Michel. I have been privileged, going back and forth between public service and private service.
I was privileged to serve the state of Texas. The Secretary of State under Governor Ann Richards, then being elected to mayor of Dallas, and then I practiced law for a number of years and I’ve come back, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
But, at the same time, when I came into this office, my wife and I had one daughter in her second year at Columbia and a senior in high school who later – and is now at NYU – and maintaining two households in two states with two kids in college, is a financial challenge and it was one we gladly made, but it’s now a point in my life that I am looking forward to spending time with my family, but also going back into the private sector.
And, if I could close again, the work we do at USTR, I know is obscure, but it’s important to every family in America.
Because we make everything that you buy, that you put on your table, cheaper, we give you more choices, but we can also do this in a way that we can provide those goods and services to the world and create jobs here.
And, if you want to learn more about the important work that we do in the Trade Representative’s office, visit our website at USTR.gov.
Interviewer:Are you sure you’re ready to leave? You seem awfully…
Ron Kirk: Well, I’m passionate about this, because…
Ready to go?
Interviewer: …happy. Yeah. I was going to say, are you sure you’re ready to go?
Ron Kirk: I so appreciate you giving me the chance to talk about this because trade is not something Americans think about every day.
You know, I grew up at a time when, you know, people knew you had fresh fruits and vegetables when they were in season. Now, we have kids that think you’re supposed to walk into Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods and there’s oranges and blueberries all year round, but that’s because we source goods from all over the world.
And trade had its origin, you know, in trading corn and wheat for gold and silver and nothing’s changed. But we in America are at a period of time that we have helped liberate and empower people. We have been a beacon for democracy for economies all over the world.
And as the world is embracing democracy and self-determination, people now have the power to determine their own destiny.
People that live in those type of societies tend to prosper and do better and they’re going to have a need for goods and services that we want to make sure we provide them.
Interviewer: That was outgoing United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Ron Kirk. He was kind enough to join us from his office, which he plans to vacate sometime later this month.
Ambassador Kirk, thank you so much for speaking with us.
Ron Kirk: Michel, thank you for having me.