Maguire Turns Focus to Int’l Health Care

Posted April 13, 2007 at 4:04pm

Before Al Gore and “An Inconvenient Truth,” there was former Rep. Andrew Maguire (D-N.J.), who helped organize the first Congressional hearings in the Senate on global warming in the 1980s. [IMGCAP(1)]

And before apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994, Maguire was pushing for sanctions against the country’s government in the 1970s.

“People sometimes told me I was ahead of my time in some of these issues,” Maguire said.

A desire for change and forward thinking characterize Maguire’s professional career, from his stint as a three-term Congressman for New Jersey’s 7th district from 1975 to 1981 to his work today as the recently appointed executive director of the GAVI Fund Campaign for Child Immunization.

The campaign is the financing arm of GAVI Alliance, an organization that delivers vaccines to 75 countries with the goal of reaching all children who need immunization by 2015 through a unique partnership between public and private sectors. As the executive director of the GAVI Fund campaign, Maguire will create initiatives that will help the group and its partner countries address one of the most pervasive problems in poor countries: lack of health care.

By solving health care issues, Maguire said, “there is no more powerful tool in improving people’s lives and education.”

Maguire, who holds a doctorate degree in government from Harvard University, has years of experience in nonprofit and international groups that help developing countries from Africa to the Middle East.

He also plans to bring his Congressional experience into his new position at GAVI by approaching donors the way lobbyists might appeal to politicians.

“One of the secrets to political success [and] success as a fundraiser is that you care and respect the other person,” Maguire said. “I don’t say, ‘Please give me this because I think it’s so important’ … it is more like, ‘Would you allow us to help you design something that you would really like to do?’”

Influenced by his father, a Presbyterian minister who was interested in social justice and political issues, Maguire studied religion as an undergraduate at Oberlin College. He almost took up theology for his doctorate degree but decided instead to study government. Maguire learned Swahili and spent a year and a half in Tanzania to do research for his degree.

“I wanted to be hands on, right where the problems were at,” Maguire said.

After graduation, he joined the State Department and worked with the United Nations in negotiating for peace in the Middle East and pushed for sanctions against apartheid in South Africa.

However, the race riots of the 1960s brought Maguire’s attention back to the domestic front. He began working with New York City on redevelopment projects in 1969.

“We had cities falling apart, and I wanted to devote myself to national issues,” he said.

But Maguire also wanted to be where decisions were made.

“I gave myself five years to get elected to Congress,” Maguire said. “I was successful in three.”

It was a moment in time, he said, when a person with his background could win a seat in Congress. In 1974, Maguire was considered a member of the Watergate Class, a group made up mostly of Democrats who were new to public office, ran in Republican districts and won.

In Congress, Maguire continued to work on health, international and environmental issues. Maguire said his time in public office allowed him to have a role in a variety of policies — from transportation to communications and from financial services to energy.

“Working in Congress is a unique opportunity to work on a range of things all at once and to make decisions on issues you care about,” Maguire said.

He lost his House seat in a closely contested race and ran for the Senate unsuccessfully against then-Rep. Frank Lautenberg (N.J.) for the Democratic nomination in 1982. Maguire described the transition from public office as excruciatingly difficult.

“I loved everything about [Congress],” Maguire said. “I loved representing people, I loved the policy debates, I loved the number of issues that I was able to work on and I loved having a position where I could make a change happen.”

After his Congressional stint ended, Maguire found himself back in Washington as vice president of the World Resources Institute, working on U.S. economic, political and security policies to resolve world resource and environmental problems. Maguire also was the CEO and president of EnterpriseWorks Worldwide, a nonprofit group that helps entrepreneurs and farmers develop projects that will provide for themselves and their family.

Moving back to the District broke a personal promise Maguire made to himself to never come to D.C. unless he was in office. But Maguire said his work outside government has been “enormously” fulfilling.

As the GAVI Fund’s executive director, Maguire will have to use his experiences in international and health issues. He has the opportunity to work with government and private sector leaders from around the world, including former South African leader Nelson Mandela and Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan.

“We hope to reach people who believe that improvements [to] health care is vitally important and who are interested in the interconnected, globalized world,” Maguire said.