Obama Nominates World Bank Leader Dartmouth College President Tapped

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Friday nominated Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank, turning to a physician and public health expert to run an organization traditionally led by heavyweights from the world of finance or politics.

The choice surprised those who followed the administration's search for someone to replace President Robert Zoellick when he leaves office in June. Mr. Kim's lack of finance experience was cited as a particular concern for an agency that aims to strengthen private markets and build infrastructure, alongside the public health and social programs it underwrites in the poorer parts of the world.

But Mr. Kim's nomination breaks new ground for an agency whose leadership has reflected a certain American patriarchy: The bank's first 10 presidents have been white men drawn from the top echelons of the country's boardrooms or government agencies. By tradition, the U.S. government chooses the World Bank chief.

Mr. Kim's family moved from South Korea to Iowa when he was five, and the young boy lived what Mr. Obama called a version of the American dream: quarterbacking his high school football team, attending the Ivy League's Brown University and earning a medical degree and doctorate in anthropology from Harvard.

Teased for being too smart by comedian Conan O'Brien at a Dartmouth commencement speech last year, Mr. Kim has been no ivory- tower recluse. The 52-year-old designed field programs that brought tuberculosis medicine to the far reaches of Peru and other remote places, and ran a World Health Organization program to expand delivery of HIV drugs.

That in-the-field experience, and a penchant for pushing big organizations to change, made Mr. Kim an ideal nominee, Mr. Obama said at a Rose Garden ceremony that hinted at possible new directions for the bank. The World Bank provides development aid and loans for poor and still-developing countries, although its role in global finance has been shrinking in an age when private money moves more freely, and emerging powers such as China and Brazil have little trouble borrowing.

"It's time for a development professional to lead the world's largest development agency," Mr. Obama said at the announcement, as Mr. Kim, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, a Dartmouth graduate, stood beside him. …