Speech by Alumnus David Maxwell-Jolly during the 2014 Pardee RAND Commencement Weekend

David Maxwell-Jolly talks after receiving the second biennial Pardee RAND Alumni Leadership Award

RAND Photography/Diane Baldwin

David Maxwell-Jolly talks after receiving the second biennial Pardee RAND Alumni Leadership Award

It is a great pleasure to be back at RAND reconnecting with dear friends and colleagues after too long a time. I want to express my appreciation to Susan and RGS for getting us all together and for selecting me for this award. I owe particular thanks to Mike Caggiano for submitting my name for consideration. Being in public service we have to learn how to live without much in the way of positive reinforcement. We are more often told about all the things we have done poorly. So when recognition of our work comes, it is very unexpected and deeply appreciated. It is especially meaningful coming from colleagues who I know from direct experience are a demanding lot.

I am also very honored to be sharing the evening with our other awardees, Andy Marshall and Charlie Wolf. We heard tonight that Charlie will soon celebrate his 60th year at RAND. By that reckoning — if I have the math right — I am just about at the midpoint of my career.

Charlie has nurtured this school carefully over the years and shaped an institution that has stood the test of time. It has become an integral component of RAND mission. RGS has thrived and turns out skilled graduates to serve throughout the globe.

As I always tell prospective students, I believe RGS did an exceptional job in outfitting me with the tools I needed to succeed:

  • Economics and marginal analysis (thanks to Chucks Roll and Phelps, and Joe Newhouse);
  • Statistics (thanks to Gus Haagstrom), so important to being an informed and skeptical consumer of policy research;
  • How organizations behave (thanks to Al Williams), particularly to learn to prevent in myself some of the illnesses that bureaucrats fall prey to.
  • The use of modelling to gain insight and understanding about how things interact and to provide planning estimates that have a logical foundation and not just pulled out of the air (thanks to Bruce Goeller and the Dutch government). These skills came in handy recently for estimating enrollment, workload, and revenue for Covered California.
  • And finally, the ethic that fosters open criticism of a colleague’s work to better arrive at the truth. Not everywhere is this kind of open discussion the norm.

When I graduated from RGS, I found my way to my first job in Sacramento with the Legislative Analyst. Given RAND’s D.C. orientation and general focus on national issues, Sacramento may not seem the most likely choice, but several of our graduates have found their way there.

Sacramento is, in fact, an obvious choice.

  • It offers complex problems and certainly great challenges.
  • It has a cadre of talented, dedicated people, with a history of working effectively together, despite all you read in the papers about the partisan wrangling.
  • And we have a tradition of innovation and often set examples for others.

The recent strong showing in California in implementing the Affordable Care Act is a great example of the advantage these strengths give us. During the years leading up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, California was engaged in debate and discussion about how to reform health care financing, including a year-long effort trying to move legislation to implement the Massachusetts model here. The people who participated in that debate, in the formulating the policies, writing and moving the legislation – and here I am referring to a broad set of participants, government, employers, health providers, consumer, health insurers, children’s advocates, unions, agents, and more — were the same people who undertook to implement California’s exchange. That shared exercise, which continued during the design and implementation of the “bridge to reform” Medicaid waiver to do an early expansion of Medicaid and build some of the delivery systems that were going to be needed with reform, served as a dress rehearsal for implementation of the Exchange.

This high level of engagement and participation is the essence of democracy. Throughout my service in Sacramento I have been impressed at the power of our democratic ethic, and I have done what I can to nurture it. As I see other nations trying to build democratic institutions, I have had the privilege and responsibility of helping perpetuate them here, to make California's government responsive to the will of the people. At the most micro level it means making sure an individual can have his or her grievances addressed. It also means that more organized group interests, all of them “special” interests, have the access to the decision making processes, understand proposed changes, and have the ability to raise their concerns.

It is a struggle every day to make sure that we have processes in place to support this consultation -- and at the same time to make sure that it does not obstruct the essential business of the government. I wonder if we have a very complete understanding of how to go about building and managing these processes. The future of our governmental institutions depends on getting these consultative processes right. I feel we have some work to do to better understand how to make them successful.

Finally, I want to reflect on a more personal consultative process. I have faced a lot of difficult decisions during my career. Through it all my wife Julie has been an essential partner helping me to get through these tough calls. She has been a trusted advisor and important sounding board to help me think things through and get things right. Most importantly she continues to inspire me to do my best to meet the needs of the people of our state the best I can. Thank you, Julie.

And again, thank you for this award.