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Geir Haarde ’73 serves as Icelandic Ambassador, former Prime Minister

By Jacob Edelman

Section: Features

May 6, 2016

In its relatively short history, Brandeis has had an incredible number of prestigious alumni in numerous fields, ranging from performing arts, academia, government, physics, business, journalism, sports, mathematics and many more.

Geir Haarde ’73 is one of these notable alums. His claim to fame? Haarde was the Prime Minister of Iceland from 2006 to 2009, and has been the Ambassador of Iceland to the United States since Feb. 23, 2015.

In 2005, Haarde became the Chairman of the Icelandic Independence Party, which is a center-right party in the Icelandic Parliament. From there, he formed a coalition with the Progressive Party of Iceland and became Prime Minister. The party was formed in 1929 when the reigning conservative and liberal parties merged in order to advocate for Icelandic independence.

Haarde attended Brandeis majoring in Economics. He later attended graduate school at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Minnesota.

Haarde came to Brandeis as a Wein Scholar. The Wein International Scholarship Program is a program that brings “students from every corner of the globe to campus” which engages “the entire community to be active global citizens,” according to the university website. Other notable Wein Scholars include Haile Menkerios ’70, United Nations undersecretary general and Olaf Olafsson ’85, executive vice president of international and corporate strategy for Time Warner. According to the website, the program has “brought over 860 scholars from 112 countries to Brandeis.”

In remarks given to The Brandeis Hoot by Haarde, which were then published by BrandeisNOW after his recent visit to the International Business School, Haarde commented, “I continue to feel indebted to the Wien family for the opportunities and experience that their generosity provided for me. It was the launching point for where I am today. Being a student at Brandeis was an excellent time in my life.”

Haarde served as an economist for a number of years before joining the Althing, which is the Icelandic Parliament. He was a member of it for 22 years.

During his time as Prime Minister, a financial crisis struck the world. Soon after, his government gave up power and the Social Democratic Alliance became the ruling government in the country. Later, Haarde was indicted on charges of negligence relating to the financial crisis. He was found guilty on one charge and ultimately was not given any punishment.

In the remarks that were shared with The Hoot, Haarde offered some sound advice for students seeking success in business, government and the greater world of work.

First, he put forth that students should not give up on their connections. “Even in my current position,” he said, “I’m still finding my connections and network from ‘the old days’ incredibly helpful.”

Second, he suggested that students should learn a foreign language, as “understanding another language allows you to grasp the cultural history that defines a country, its ways of life and ultimately, its ways of doing business.”

Finally, Haarde commented that future leaders should be comfortable dealing with others in a civil manner. “It’s important to try to understand the other party’s point of view in order to find a mutually beneficial deal for all involved. In politics as in life more generally, it is often necessary to be able to put yourself in other people’s shoes,” he stated.

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