Bedford Roots a Backdrop as Biden Names Tanden to Key Position

Neera Tanden – Courtesy image (c) all rights reserved

As Neera Tanden accepts another prominent position in the administration of President Joe Biden, she still remembers her formative years growing up in Bedford.

Indeed, her boss won’t let her forget.

“While growing up, Neera relied on some of the critical programs that she will oversee as domestic policy advisor, and I know those insights will serve my administration and the American people well,” said Biden in a statement announcing the appointment on Friday.

Tanden, 52, who was named a senior advisor and staff secretary to the President in May 2021, will succeed Susan Rice later this month.

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In an email to The Citizen Saturday, she reinforced the point. 

“When my family was struggling, the community of Bedford lifted us up,” she testified. “Members of the Unitarian Church were helping hands when we moved into an apartment in Bedford Village. I learned so much in Bedford’s excellent public schools, graduating from Bedford High School.

“I feel lucky that I was able to grow up in Bedford in a tight-knit community that provided a lot of support and friendship to my family,” she wrote in her email. “I owe the town a lot.”

According to the website, Tanden will become “the first Asian-American to lead any of the top White House advisory councils in history.”

After her 1988 BHS graduation, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and her law degree from Yale University School of Law.

Tanden’s parents were immigrants from India. She has returned home twice for speaking events. She was the Bedford High School graduation keynote speaker in 2010 and presented the annual “Spirit of Democracy” service at First Parish on the Common in April 2018. 

At that gathering, Tanden related how the subsidized apartment was a literal safety net when her single-parent family lost their home, and how other government programs helped them survive until they got back on their feet.

Tanden traces her involvement in national political campaigns to that of former Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1988 when she was beginning her collegiate years. She began her career as an associate director for domestic policy for former President Bill Clinton’s White House and senior policy adviser to First Lady Hillary Clinton, ultimately becoming part of her brain trust.

Later she was the legislative director in Sen. Clinton’s office and deputy campaign manager and issues director for Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign in New York. Tanden also served as policy director for Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign in 2008, where she directed all policy work and oversaw the debate preparation process for the senator.

Tanden was the director of domestic policy for the Obama-Biden presidential campaign, where she managed all domestic policy proposals. She served as senior adviser for health reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, developing policies and working with Congress and stakeholders on particular provisions of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

She joined the think tank Center for American Progress before the 2008 Clinton campaign and ultimately succeeded founder John Podesta as president.

Biden wanted Tanden to be his first director of the Office of Management and Budget. But in March 2021 she requested that he withdraw the nomination, in the face of Senatorial opposition to that Cabinet-level appointment. The objections centered in part on her social-media posts critical of members of Congress. Biden said that he expected that Tanden would land another “role in my administration.” 

On Saturday, the president’s statement said, “As senior advisor and staff secretary, Neera oversaw decision-making processes across my domestic, economic and national security teams… She was a key architect of the Affordable Care Act and helped drive key domestic policies that became part of my agenda, including clean energy subsidies and sensible gun reform.”

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