2017 Honorees

Ray Mabus

The Edmund S. Muskie Distinguished Public Service Award

Ray Mabus has been a change leader throughout his career, from attacking entrenched public corruption as Mississippi’s State Auditor in the early 1980s to reviving a bankrupt publicly traded sector manufacturing company with no loss in equity and no loss to creditors to revolutionizing the Navy and Marine Corps as Secretary of the Navy under President Obama.

The longest serving Secretary of the Navy since World War I, Mabus has also served as Governor of Mississippi, Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Chairman and CEO of Foamex. Currently, he is an advisor to Google Ventures, an Executive Teaching Fellow at Harvard Business School and a Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School.  At Harvard, he speaks and teaches leadership and decision-making.  He is also on the board of a public company and is assisting several pre-IPO companies.

As Navy Secretary from 2009 to 2017, Mabus led America's Sailors and Marines in a time of two wars and oversaw an annual budget of over $170 billion and nearly 900,000 people.  If the Department of the Navy were a private company, it would be the second largest in the United States in employees, third largest in assets and fifth largest in budget authority.

Recognized by Glassdoor as one of the top 50 CEOs in the country, Mabus earned international attention for his efforts to rebuild the U.S. fleet; revolutionize energy procurement and consumption, including moving the Navy away from fossil fuels; promoting innovation in Navy personnel and business practices; and strengthening global partnerships by traveling over 1.3 million miles to meet with Sailors and Marines and leaders in over 152 separate countries and territories.

In his first seven years as Secretary, 86 ships were put under contract, more than double the number in the previous seven years, with a far more challenging budget environment. From 2001 to 2008, the fleet declined from 316 to 278 ships.  Mabus’ efforts assure that the fleet will again top 300 ships no later than 2019. Mabus reintroduced some basic business fundamentals, expanding competitive bidding, fixed-price contracts and multi-year procurements

Just five months into his term, Mabus established five aggressive goals to make the Navy and Marine Corps more energy efficient and to diversify its fuel supply.  The most ambitious of the goals requires that by 2020 more than half of naval energy afloat and ashore will come from non-fossil fuel source. The Department met that goal ashore in 2015 and is well positioned to meet it at sea no later than the deadline.

He launched a comprehensive approach to health, fitness, resilience, family, sexual assault and suicide prevention and alcohol and drug abuse through the 21st Century Sailor and Marine Program.  He followed that up with innovative personnel changes to make volunteer military service more attractive, including a career intermission program, merit promotions, flexible entry and industry tours and tripled paid maternity leave to eighteen weeks.

He opened submarine and riverine service to women and returned Naval ROTC to Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Princeton after an absence of forty years. He also advocated the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and opened all positions to women, while maintaining the highest combat effectiveness.

In June 2010, President Obama gave him the additional task of producing a long-term Gulf Coast restoration plan after the Deepwater Horizon spill.  Many of the recommendations in his report, “America’s Gulf Coast,” were adopted into law when Congress passed on a bipartisan vote and the President signed the “Restore Act.”

Prior to Navy, Mabus was chosen CEO of Foamex, a manufacturing company, to help lead it out of bankruptcy.  Less than nine months after his appointment, Foamex emerged from Chapter 11, paid every qualified creditor 100 cents on the dollar, plus interest, preserving all of equity and raising $150 million in new financing.

As the youngest governor of Mississippi in more than 150 years at the time of his election, he stressed education and job creation. He passed B.E.S.T. (Better Education for Success Tomorrow), one of the most comprehensive education reform programs in America; gave teachers the largest pay raise in the nation; was named one or Fortune Magazine’s top ten education governors; balanced every budget; and never raised taxes. Mississippi also had record growth in new jobs, investment, tourism and exports. In 2000, he was chosen in a poll of Mississippians as the Best Governor of the 20th Century.

During his tenure as Ambassador, a crisis with Iraq was successfully deterred, a terrorist attack was weathered, and contracts worth more than $16 billion were signed between Saudi Arabia and American companies. Also, Saudi Arabia officially abandoned the boycott of United States businesses that trade with Israel and more than $8 million of proposed expenditures for the American mission were cut.

Immediately preceding his term as Governor, Mabus was elected State Auditor of Mississippi, where he first established his reputation as a reformer and change agent.  As auditor, he erased a five-year audit backlog, got bond ratings restored, and participated in one of the nation’s largest public corruption operations with the FBI, recovering millions of dollars in misspent public funds. He was chosen as one of Esquire’s Top Forty Under Forty.

Mabus has been awarded the U.S. Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award, the U.S. Army’s Distinguished Civilian Service Award (both while Ambassador), the Martin Luther King Social Responsibility Award from the King Center in Atlanta, the National Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Award, the King Abdul Aziz Award from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Mississippi Association of Educators’ Friend of Education Award, and is a member of the University of Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame. He is also an honorary Chief Petty Officer and an Honorary Frogman (SEAL).

Always active in his community, Mabus was a founder, following Hurricane Katrina, of the Help and Hope Foundation, working to meet the needs of children affected by the storm. He was also a member of the RAND Center for Mid-East Public Policy and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was the Distinguished Lecturer on the Middle East at the University of Mississippi. An avid photographer, his photographs have raised tens of thousands of dollars for various Mississippi charities.

Mabus has appeared on many television programs, including “60 Minutes” and “Nightline.”  He also appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”, “The Colbert Report” and had cameos on the television shows “NCIS,” “NCIS New Orleans” and “The Last Ship” and the movie “Battleship.” During his life, he has traveled to more than 180 countries and territories on all seven continents, has stood on both poles, gone across the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and visited China before relations were normalized with the United States. He has skydived with the SEALs, flown in virtually every type of aircraft the Navy and Marine Corps operate and been aboard nearly every type of ship.

He is a fourth generation Mississippian who hold’s a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi, Summa Cum Laude, a master’s degree from the John Hopkins University, where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a law degree, Magna Cum Laude, from Harvard. He also served in the U.S. Navy aboard the cruiser USS Little Rock.

Ray Mabus is married to Lynne Horecky Mabus and has three children: Elisabeth, born in 1990, Annie, born in 1992, and Kate born in 2001.

Melanie Nakagawa

The Truman Center Policy Leadership Award

Melanie Nakagawa is the Head of Climate Initiative with Princeville Global, an investment firm focused on backing rapidly-growing technology-enabled companies around the world. In this role she is leading an effort to launch a new initiative to invest in global companies delivering transformative solutions to climate change with strong investor returns.

Before joining Princeville Global, Melanie served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Transformation at the U.S. State Department. There she led efforts to promote the global shift toward a low carbon economy as integral to economic development and addressing energy security. Leading specific engagements in high growth markets such as India and Morocco, she helped countries implement clean energy commitments. She oversaw initiatives promoting sustainable energy access through entrepreneurship and innovation and worked with emerging and established companies around the world to advance solutions to climate change.

Prior to her appointment, she served on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff as a strategic advisor to Secretary Kerry advancing efforts to elevate climate change as a foreign policy priority. She spearheaded efforts focused on environmental conservation, climate investment and the nexus of climate change and national security. This included drafting the Secretary’s first policy guidance to the Department on climate change setting measurable goals for action and establishing and chairing the Department’s national security and climate change working group. For her work she was recognized with two U.S. Department of State Meritorious Honor Awards.

Before joining the State Department she served as the Senior Energy and Environment Counsel for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee responsible for drafting legislation, developing policy recommendations, and conducting oversight. This included drafting climate change legislation to establish a domestic carbon market, authoring a Committee report on water security, and advising on treaties affecting environmental protection and conservation. Prior to her government service, she was an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental non-profit organization, where she focused on environmental protection, climate change, and clean energy.

She received a law degree from American University Washington College of Law and Master of Arts in International Affairs from American University School of International Service, and Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brown University. She was a Harvard Law School Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow. She is currently a non-resident Fellow with the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and a Fellow with Truman National Security Project.

Nat Kreamer

The Truman Visionary Leadership Award

Nat Kreamer is the chairman emeritus of the board of directors at Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). As the chairman of SEIA, Nat is a champion of domestic renewable energy as national defense and jobs for American veterans in the solar industry, which is the nation’s fastest growing and biggest employer within the energy sector.

Nat serves as an advisor to the Rocky Mountain Institute, lecturer at the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Northwestern University, and member of the National Advisory Council for Grid Alternatives, which installs free solar systems for low-income families and provides solar job training.

Kick-starting a multi-billion dollar industry, Nat sold the first residential solar power purchase agreement in the United States when he co-founded Sunrun (NASDAQ: RUN) and served as its president and COO. He was subsequently the president and CEO of Spruce, a leading technology-enabled lender for residential solar and efficiency home improvements, as well as its predecessor Clean Power Finance. Prior to Clean Power Finance, Nat was the president and member of the board of directors of Acro Energy Technologies (TSX: ART). He also created the Chicago Climate Exchange market-making business for Pioneer Futures (Virtu Financial) and worked in power industry financial consulting at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Currently an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves, Nat is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, where he served in the Special Forces and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. He received a “Champion of Change” award from the White House, a “Most Admired CEO” award from the San Francisco Business Times, and was named a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for Northern California. Nat has a BS from Northwestern University and an MBA from Rice University.