Jobs for Delaware Graduates – A Local Idea That Sparked National Change

Forty-three years ago, in 1978, at a time when Delaware had the highest unemployment rate in the United States and the second-highest dropout rate…when the state income tax rate was the highest in the country…when companies were leaving the state, and new ones wouldn’t move to the state, late Governor Pete du Pont had an idea. That idea was creation of the Jobs for Delaware Graduates program. Five working groups made up of public and private sector leads, drawn from business, education, workforce, labor union, and community leadership, worked together to develop the model of Jobs for Delaware Graduates.

Pete’s mission for Jobs for Delaware Graduates was to enable students to achieve academic, career, personal and social success by offering programs for in-school youth, dropout recovery and follow-up services. At the time, the Governor insisted “We can do better – far better,” and organized a series of Task Forces to develop the first model for the program. 

As explained by Ken Smith, who worked for the Governor and now serves as the President of JAG: 

“At that time, I was Governor du Pont’s Chief Education Advisor, so I was responsible for organizing all of it and presenting a final plan to the Governor and the cabinet for a decision. Late one evening – almost midnight – after some very difficult discussions about the state budget being in shambles and many other issues, Governor du Pont told the weary group that the plan for Jobs for Delaware Graduates was done and ready for decisions and asked me to present it.

Looking at some exhausted cabinet members over cold cups of coffee (and I have to admit, a cigarette or two), I made my best case for the program. When I was done, the Governor asked for comments. Most said, “Gosh, Ken, great idea … surely need to do something, but we just can’t now…we simply have no capacity to do this…only a small amount of political capital to spend, and the issues are much bigger.” Then the Governor asked for a vote from the cabinet and senior staff. There were 12 no’s by the time it got around to me (again with kind remarks), and I said “Yes.” The Governor paused a second and said, “The ayes have it. Our young people cannot wait, the schools cannot wait, and our employers cannot wait. Let’s see if we can do something far more effective, far more accountable, and far more cost-effective than what we’re doing now for the poorest and most disadvantaged youth in our schools.” We launched Jobs for Delaware Graduates two months later.”

The Jobs for Delaware Graduates model worked so well, it led to the creation of the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program. Pete, a Republican, and then-Vice President Walter Mondale, a Democrat, worked together in bipartisanship to make Jobs for America’s Graduates possible. 

Over the years, both programs have continued to grow. Since its inception, more than 60,000 students have been involved in Jobs for Delaware Graduates programs. JAG now operates in 34 states with over 1,000 program affiliates and has served over 1.5 million graduates. 

In 1990, Pete spoke at a press conference to taut the success of both programs. Click here to see Pete proudly speak about watching his idea grow, bringing a future of opportunity and empowerment to young people.

 

PDFF recognizes Covid-19 ‘Heroes’

Pete du Pont once said, “Optimism is driven primarily by the ingenuity and resilience of America’s people.” In 2020, we saw individuals, families, businesses, and communities rally together to develop great ideas to support those in need and keep our businesses afloat. 

In September of 2020, the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation honored two Delawareans as “Delaware Heroes” who exemplify courage, dedication, compassion and the willingness to serve in the fight against Covid-19. A ceremony was held at the DuPont Country Club to honor Dr. David Chen of Christiana Care and Wanda Rincon-Burgos of the Latin American Community Center.

Check out our feature in Technical.ly:

Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation honored these COVID-19 ‘heroes’

Obituary – Pierre S. “Pete” du Pont IV

Former Delaware Governor and Congressman Pierre S. (“Pete”) du Pont IV died today, May 8, 2021,  at his home in Wilmington, Delaware after a long illness.   

Governor du Pont served as Delaware’s lone Congressman in the 92nd – 94th Congresses from 1971 to 1977.  He served as Delaware’s 68th Governor from 1977 to 1985.  

During his three terms in the U.S. Congress from 1971 to 1977, du Pont served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee.  As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he was a co-author and sponsor of the War Powers Act of 1973, which was passed into law and limits the authority of the President to commit U.S. Armed Forces abroad without the consent of the Congress.

Beginning with his second campaign for Congress, he refused to accept any campaign contributions larger than $200 from any one person or organization.   He continued this policy during his later campaigns for Congress and Governor.

As Governor of the State of Delaware from 1977 to 1985, du Pont led eight consecutive balanced budgets, two separate income tax reductions totaling 9%, and a Constitutional Amendment to limit future excess spending and tax increases. The income tax cuts were the first in Delaware’s 200-year history.  He brought the state back from the worst bond rating in the country to one of the best. Under his tenure, Delaware’s unemployment dropped from above average to one of the lowest in the nation, 14% lower than the US average. One in five jobs that existed in the state when he left office had been created during his administration.  

In 1981, Governor du Pont spearheaded Delaware’s “Financial Center Development Act” which gave birth to Delaware’s credit card and financial services industry.  It brought over thirty banks to the state and created some 43,000 new finance related jobs.  Wilmington and the rest of New Castle County were transformed.  His actions led the state away from its dependence on a single industry toward a more robust, multi-faceted economy.  

Du Pont was also a sponsor of the “Jobs for Delaware’s Graduates” Program which became the national “Jobs for America’s Graduates” Program. It is an employment, counseling and job placement program for high school seniors in the bottom quartile of their classes.  

On a lighter note, he was known for throwing Halloween parties at Woodburn, the Governor’s mansion in Dover.  His family would decorate the entire ground floor for the occasion, and he would dress as Dracula to greet the guests. He wore a black cape, drew a steep widow’s peak on his forehead, and welcomed trick or treaters with a deep “Good EEEvening…”  Many a reporter had a field day with that image.  

In 1987, Governor du Pont launched a campaign for President of the United States, competing for the Republican nomination with then Vice-President George H.W. Bush, Senator Bob Dole, Congressman Jack Kemp, and televangelist Pat Robertson.  Columnist George Will said about du Pont’s 1988 campaign for president, “du Pont has the highest substance-to-blather ratio among candidates, even on subjects as sensitive as agriculture policy and Social Security.”  

Du Pont described his presidential platform as five “Damn Right” issues.  These controversial issues included replacing the Social Security system with private savings accounts, ending farm subsidies, making drivers licenses contingent on passing drug tests, replacing welfare with work, and giving parents the option of choosing the public schools their children attended.  The intention of his platform was to stimulate real discussion in the country, which he believed was the purpose of the race and the job.  Du Pont used to say that “a Congressman’s job is to wet his finger and put it up in the air to see which way the wind was blowing.  The President’s job is to make the wind blow.”

After a modest showing in the New Hampshire Primary in February 1988, Governor du Pont withdrew and supported the eventual nominee, George H. W. Bush. Thereafter he withdrew from the political arena to become a partner of the Wilmington, Delaware law firm, Richards, Layton & Finger.  

During his career in public service, Governor du Pont served as Chairman of the Education Commission of the States, the Hudson Institute, the National Review Institute, and the National Center for Policy Analysis.  In 1978 he founded GOPAC, a political action committee, with the goal of creating a base of promising Republican state office holders who could run for Congress or higher offices later.  Many credit GOPAC for being a key catalyst in expanding the American conservative movement in 1994, flipping both the House and the Senate. 

In 1990, Governor du Pont was appointed by the Hudson Institute to be a member of the International Blue-Ribbon Commission established at the request of prominent Hungarian political leaders to prepare detailed economic proposals for the Hungarian government that assumed office after the parliamentary election in March 1990. The commission explored the challenges that issues such as free trade, private ownership, labor law, taxes, social welfare and inflation present to a nation attempting to move from socialism to a market economy.

Du Pont co-founded one of the first online political magazines, IntellectualCapital.com, in 1996.  It was a weekly public policy journal featuring the leading ideas of renowned public policy thinkers until its sale in 2000.  In October 1999, Newsstation.com named du Pont as one of the “50 best, most important, and most influential journalists on the Internet.”  And Yahoo! Internet Life awarded IntellectualCapital.com the Best Political Commentary site in 1998.

Governor du Pont was a regular columnist on OpinionJournal.com, the editorial page on the website of the Wall Street Journal.  His column was entitled Outside the Box and discussed current public policy and political matters from 2000 to 2014.  In December of 1999, the Delaware News Journal selected him as one of the “Delawareans of the Century.”   

In 2003, Governor du Pont established the Pete du Pont Individual Freedom Award, given to an individual who has championed a successful idea that has led to economic growth or innovation in the private sector.  The Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation was established in 2017 to create jobs and opportunity in Delaware. 

Governor du Pont was born in Wilmington, Delaware on January 22, 1935, the oldest of three children of Pierre S. du Pont III and Jane Holcomb du Pont.  He was a direct descendant of E.I du Pont de Nemours, the founder of the Du Pont Company,  a great nephew of Pierre S. du Pont, the founder of Longwood Gardens, and a cousin of Henry Francis du Pont, the founder of Winterthur Museum.  Governor du Pont attended Tower Hill School, graduated from Philips Exeter Academy, received a B.S in Mechanical Engineering from Princeton University in 1956, and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1963 where he won the Ames Moot Court Competition during his final year.  

Du Pont was an accomplished sailor.  He began sailing when he was quite young, when his father bought him a classic Herreshoff  Bull’s Eye and left him in the harbor by himself to learn how to sail.   He went on in later years to win a series of trophies from the Royal Swedish Yacht Club Regatta in Sandhamn, Sweden, culminating in taking the King Oscar II Jubilee Cup in 1957.  This was the first time the Jubilee Cup had gone to anyone outside Scandinavia.  He competed in two America’s Cup trial races on the twelve-meter boats Weatherly and Nefertiti in 1958 and 1962, respectively.  He served as a grinder on Weatherly and the navigator on Nefertiti.  He made one transatlantic crossing and participated in five Bermuda races from Newport, Rhode Island to Bermuda. 

In May of 1957, he married Elise Ravenel Wood from Wawa, Pennsylvania and they moved to Brunswick, Maine where he joined the U.S. Naval Reserve, the Seabees, from 1957 to 1960.  His primary duties included snow plowing the Brunswick Naval Air Station runway.  He used to describe the lonely drive from his house to work in the dead of night at the beginning of a snowstorm as “driving off the edge of the earth.”

In 1963 he moved to Wilmington, Delaware to work as an engineer for the DuPont Company  and continued there until 1969.  

His political career began in 1969, when he ran unopposed and was elected to the Delaware State House of Representatives representing Brandywine Hundred.   In that first race, he won over 70% of the votes.  He joked that he was proud to have won 73% of the vote but was frequently reminded that 27% would rather have had no one representing them.

He enjoyed the process of campaigning, even in later life when he wasn’t running for office.  To walk through the grocery store with him meant meeting almost every person in that store and listening to countless stories from adults and children alike as he made his way to the cookie aisle.  

He enjoyed sailing far into his old age, sailing with his children and grandchildren in Penobscot Bay and beyond.  He frequently sailed and raced in the annual New York Yacht Club Cruise through the bay, bringing friends and family along, with a goal to have fun, win races and instill a love of sailing.  Woe be to any who challenged him on the waters of the Fox Island Thoroughfare in Maine, where he dominated the local sailing circuit late into his life.  But competition was only part of his love of the sport.  He volunteered his time at the North Haven Casino to teach new sailors the art of racing. He took his family on weekly sailing cruises during the summer, including overnight trips for special occasions like birthdays.  And every day he spent on the water was spent with a smile.  In his own words, “I have sailed boats all my life, and found calm and fulfillment and real pleasure on the water.”  

Governor du Pont is survived by his wife of over 60 years, Elise, and their four children, Elise du Pont Zoller and her husband Preston of Salt Lake City, Utah, Pierre S. du Pont, V and his wife Jenny of Ossining, New York, Benjamin Franklin du Pont and his wife Laura of Rockland, Delaware, Éleuthère I. du Pont (“Thère”) and his wife Darla of Wilmington, Delaware, and ten grandchildren. In addition, Governor du Pont is survived by his sister, Michele Goss, of San Francisco, California.  

Due to Covid-19, a memorial service will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Frontotemporal Disorders Unit at Mass General Hospital, Dr. Dickerson’s lab: https://Giving.MassGeneral.org/FTDUnit and the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation, https://www.petedupontfreedomfoundation.org

For additional information, contact:
Bob Perkins
cell: 302-740-8010
email: petedupontfuneral@gmail.com

MBNA named 2021 Freedom Award Winner

The Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation has selected MBNA as this year’s recipient of its Freedom Award, it was announced by Board Chair Thère du Pont. The award ceremony will be held on Thursday, September 16, 2021 at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington. 

For the first time, the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation has chosen to honor a business rather than an individual. “This honoree captures both my father’s enthusiasm for entrepreneurial innovation and the priority he placed on job growth,” said du Pont. “The 1981 Financial Center Development Act was the centerpiece of his efforts to attract employers to Delaware by creating an innovative regulatory environment. MBNA, displaying both courage and vision, was one of the first to take advantage of the FCDA and immediately created a distinctive culture wrapped around service to the customer and generosity to the local community.  Its impact on Delaware continues to this day and one wonders whether any of that would have happened without the vision shared by my father and MBNA’s leaders,” he added. 

The Pete du Pont Freedom Award is presented annually to an individual or organization who has championed a successful idea which has led to economic growth or brought innovation to the private sector. The award honors one of Delaware’s finest leaders, Governor Pete du Pont, who delivered Delaware from harsh fiscal times into an age of vibrant economic growth by working with the legislature, business and community leaders, and educators. 

Recent Freedom Award recipients include Charlie Horn, Carol Ammon, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Mike Castle. The Freedom Award presentation serves as a key fundraising effort to help support the Foundation’s work to identify and bring to life bold and innovative ideas to make Delaware even better. As an added bonus, the presentation will include a progress report on the Reinventing Delaware competition and celebrate our Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem (E3) and Reinventing Delaware alumni. 

This year’s award presentation will be held from 6:00-8:30PM and will include passed hors d’oeuvres and complimentary beverages. “The Freedom Award is held in downtown Wilmington in the hopes that attendees will support local restaurants by having dinner beforehand or after the event,” said du Pont. 

Sponsorship opportunities for the Freedom Award are available. Each sponsorship opportunity includes a corresponding number of complimentary tickets as well as inclusion in the event program, and mentions in event publicity. Contact Stephanie Johnnie at stephanie@petedupontfreedomfoundation.org to learn more.