October 24, 2014

Man who grew up in Muscatine may be World Bank president (video)

A man who grew up in eastern Iowa could be the next leader of the World Bank.

President Obama has nominated Jim Yong Kim to be president of the World Bank, an international institution that last year loaned nearly $60 billion to support development in third-world counties. Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1959. When Kim was five he moved with his family to Muscatine, Iowa, and President Obama suggests Kim was something of a child prodigy in Muscatine.

“Jim went on to become the president of his high school class, the quarterback of the football team, the point guard of the basketball team. I just found out he is a five handicap in golf — I’m a little resentful about that last item,” Obama joked today during a Rose Garden news conference. Kim, who was standing beside Obama, laughed. “But he does it all.”

Watch the video of Obama’s announcement.

Kim’s father was a dentist who also taught at the University of Iowa’s dental school. Kim, who was the valedictorian of his senior class in Muscatine, attended the University of Iowa for a year on an engineering scholarship before transferring to Brown. He earned a medical degree from Harvard. Kim has been the president of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire for the past three years.

His status as co-founder of “Partners in Heath” — a group that works around the globe to provide health care for the poor — prompted President Obama to consider him as the future leader of the World Bank.

“The leader of the World Bank should have a deep understanding of both the role that development plays in the world and the importance of creating conditions where assistance is no longer needed. I believe that nobody is more qualified to carry out that mission than Dr. Jim Kim,” President Obama said during a Rose Garden news conference on Friday. “It’s time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency.”

In the 1990s, during work in Peru, Dr. Kim helped pioneer a cure for tuberculosis that could not be treated with certain types of drugs.

“Jim has truly global experience. He’s worked from Asia to Africa to the Americas, from capitols to small villages,” President Obama said. “His personal story exemplifies the great diversity of our country and the fact that anyone can make it as far as he has, as long as they’re willing to work hard and look out for others — and his experience makes him ideally suited to forge partnerships all around the world.”

Before going to Harvard’s faculty and then on to Dartmouth, Kim was director of the HIV/Aids department in the World Health Organization.

“I’ve made HIV/Aids and the fight against that dreaded disease and the promotion of public health a cornerstone of my development agenda, building on some of the outstanding work that was done by President Bush,” Obama said. “We pursue these things around the globe because it’s the right thing to do and also because healthy populations promote growth and prosperity and I’m pleased that Jim brings that particular experience with him to his new job.”

Kim’s “Partners in Health” organization now works in the countries of Haiti, Russia, Rwanda, Lesotho and Malawi as well as Peru.

It has been tradition that the U.S. chooses the leader of the World Bank and Europeans choose the leader of the International Monetary Fund. It’s likely Kim will become president of the World Bank on July 1.