Former U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus ’75 returned to the Harvard Law School campus on Feb. 8 for a question-and-answer session moderated by HLS Professor William Alford ’77, vice dean for the Graduate Program and International Legal Studies. This semester, Mabus and Alford, together with Alonzo Emery ’10, are teaching a reading group on “Challenges in Public Leadership.” 

Mabus served as the 75th Secretary of the Navy from 2009-2017 under former President Barack Obama ’91. In his HLS talk, Mabus discussed the formative value of his time at HLS, his experiences in state politics, and the challenges he faced as secretary of the Navy while implementing U.S. policy on Chinese encroachment in the South China Sea and promoting green energy.

In 2015, he delivered the Disabled American Veterans Distinguished Lecture, which provides an annual forum for public servants and thought leaders to speak on issues of importance to the nation’s veterans. Prior to his appointment as secretary, he was the governor of Mississippi (1988-1992), ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the Clinton administration, and CEO of Foamex International.

Alford, a scholar of Chinese law and legal history and longtime friend of Mabus, serves as the director the East Asian Legal Studies Program and the chair of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability.