Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Special Assistant for Domestic Affairs to President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the Carter administration, in conversation with Jonathan Fanton, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Visiting Fellow and Interim Director at Roosevelt House. Mr. Califano offered reflections on his distinguished career in public service and the values that have guided him throughout his life.

Mr. Califano is the Founder and Chairman Emeritus of CASAColumbia, a research organization that works to translate knowledge about substance use and addiction into policy and practice. He is author of twelve books including How to Raise a Drug Free Kid. Mr. Califano received his Bachelor of Arts degree from The College of the Holy Cross and his LLB from Harvard Law School, magna cum laude. He serves as a member of the Roosevelt House Advisory Board.

Joseph A. Califano, Jr. Biography  

Mr. Califano is Founder and Chair Emeritus of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia), an independent non-profit research center affiliated with Columbia University in New York City. Founded in 1992, CASA is now a think/action tank with a staff of 50 professionals. It conducts public policy research and evaluates prevention and treatment programs involving all substances (alcohol, illegal, prescription and performance-enhancing drugs, nicotine) and has mounted demonstration programs at more than 200 schools and sites in 57 cities and counties in 19 states.

He has been Adjunct Professor of Public Health (Health Policy and Management) at Columbia University’s Medical School (Department of Psychiatry) and School of Public Health and is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2010, he received the Gustav O. Lienhard Award (the Institute’s highest honor) from the Institute of Medicine for his contributions to improving public health, his leadership in catalyzing federal action to curb smoking and his broader efforts to reduce the toll of addiction and substance abuse.

His twelfth book, How To Raise A Drug Free Kid—The Straight Dope for Parents, was published by Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone/Fireside Division in August 2009. A new revised edition will be published in August 2014.

His eleventh book, High Society—How Substance Abuse Ravages America and What To Do About It, was published in 2007 by PublicAffairs Press.

His memoir, Inside—A Public and Private Life, was published in 2004 by PublicAffairs Press. His book, The Triumph and Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson, was republished in 2000 by Texas A & M University Press with a new afterward drawing on tapes released by the LBJ Library.

He was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 15, 1931. He attended St. Gregory’s Elementary School and Brooklyn Preparatory School in Brooklyn, New York.

Mr. Califano received his Bachelor of Arts degree from The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1952, and his LL.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1955. In law school, he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

In 1955, Mr. Califano enlisted in the Navy as an officer candidate. He was commissioned an ensign in November 1955, served three years in the Office of the Judge Advocate General in Washington, D.C., and was released to inactive duty in October 1958, as a lieutenant. He associated with the law firm of Dewey Ballantine in New York City from October 1958 until April 1961.

In April 1961 Mr. Califano became Special Assistant to the General Counsel of the Department of Defense. In July 1962 he was appointed Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. On July 1, 1963, he was appointed General Counsel of the Army. He also served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army for Civil Functions, supervising the Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works Program and was a member of the President’s Appalachian Regional Commission.

In early 1964, Mr. Califano was selected to serve as the principal legal advisor to the United States Delegation to the Investigating Committee of the Organization of American States on the Panama riots of January 1964. Subsequently, he was also selected to present the United States case before the International Commission of Jurists during hearings held in Panama dealing with those riots. In recognition of his work as General Counsel of the Department of the Army, Mr. Califano was awarded the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the highest civilian award of the Army.

On April 1, 1964, Mr. Califano was appointed Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense. He had special responsibilities for Department of Defense liaison with the Office of the President of the United States. He also acted as Executive Secretary of the President’s Advisory Committee on Supersonic Transport, as the Department of Defense representative on the President’s Committee on the Economic Impact of Defense and Disarmament, and as a member of the Federal Radiation Council. In recognition of his work as the Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, Mr. Califano was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal of the Department of Defense.

Mr. Califano was appointed Special Assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 26, 1965. In this position, Mr. Califano served as LBJ’s top domestic aide, developing the President’s legislative program as well as helping coordinate economic policies and handling domestic crises. He also worked on a variety of domestic problems, including labor-management relations, balance of payments, health care, education, environmental and urban issues, and civil rights. He served in this position until January 20, 1969. While in this post, The New York Times called him “The Deputy President for Domestic Affairs.”

Mr. Califano was a member of the Washington law firm of Arnold & Porter from March 1969 until May 1971. He was a member of the Washington law firm of Williams, Connolly & Califano from June 1971 until January 1977.

In January 1977, Mr. Califano became Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. He served in that Cabinet post until August 1979. He put the Department through the most complete reorganization in its twenty-five year history; created the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) to run Medicare and Medicaid; mounted major health promotion and disease prevention programs, including childhood immunization, the first national anti-smoking campaign, an alcoholism initiative, and issuance of Healthy People, the first Surgeon General’s Report on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention which for the first time set health goals for the American people; began the collection of hundreds of millions of dollars of defaulted student loans, and instituted computerized techniques to police welfare, Medicare and Medicaid programs; worked with the Congress to maintain the financial integrity of the Social Security system, contain health care costs, and restructure Federal aid to elementary, secondary and higher education; and issued the first regulations to provide equal opportunity to the handicapped and to provide equal athletic opportunity to women under Title IX.

As Secretary, Mr. Califano funded the nation’s first free standing hospice in Branford, CT, and issued regulations to make Medicare reimbursement available for hospice care.

In 1979, as Secretary, Mr. Califano directed the Public Health Service to eliminate its official characterization of homosexuality as “a mental disease or defect” which immigration authorities had used to deny individuals entry to the United States solely because of their sexual orientation.

In January 1980, Mr. Califano formed the law firm of Califano, Ross & Heineman in Washington, D.C. From 1983 until 1992, he was senior partner and head of the Washington office of Dewey Ballantine. In 1992, he founded The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

Mr. Califano is the author of twelve books. In early 1969, he traveled around the world on a study of the “student-youth-and-establishment” problem under a Ford Foundation grant. He wrote about those travels in
his book, The Student Revolution: A Global Confrontation, published by W.W. Norton in 1969. Mr. Califano’s second book, A Presidential Nation, was published by W.W. Norton in 1975. His third, The Media and the Law, was published by Praeger Special Studies in 1976 and was co-authored and co-edited with Howard Simons, Managing Editor of The Washington Post. His fourth, The Media and Business, was published by Random House in 1978 and was also in collaboration with Mr. Simons.

In May 1981, Simon and Schuster published Mr. Califano’s fifth book, Governing America, about his years as Secretary of HEW. In June, 1982, Warner Books published his sixth, The 1982 Report on Drug Abuse and Alcoholism. Mr. Califano’s seventh book, America’s Health Care Revolution: Who Lives? Who Dies? Who Pays?, was published by Random House in 1986. His eighth book, The Triumph and Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson: The White House Years, was published by Simon and Schuster in 1991 and republished by Texas A & M University Press in 2000. His ninth book, Radical Surgery: What’s Next for America’s Health Care, was published by Random House in January, 1995. His books are available from or as ebooks.

Mr. Califano has also written articles for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Readers Digest, New Republic, Journal of the American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine, America, The Washington Monthly, and other publications.

He was Founding Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Mr. Califano is a director of CBS Corporation. He is a Trustee of New York Presbyterian Hospital, The Century Foundation, The Urban Institute, The American Ditchley Foundation and The LBJ Foundation; Trustee Emeritus of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and a member of the advisory council of the American Foundation for AIDS Research and the Council on Foreign Relations.

In 1982 and 1983, Mr. Califano served as Special Counsel to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, to head the investigation of allegations of drug use and sexual misconduct involving Members of Congress and pages.

Mr. Califano is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States and is a member of the Bars of the District of Columbia and the State of New York.

Mr. Califano is a Democrat and served from 1969 to 1971 as Co-Chairman of the Committee on National Priorities of the Democratic Policy Council; from March 1971 until August 1972 as General Counsel to the Democratic National Committee; and from 1972 to 1974 as a member of the Democratic Party’s National Charter Commission.

Mr. Califano has received honorary degrees from numerous colleges and universities, including the Universities of Notre Dame, Michigan, Howard and Seton Hall, State University of New York, The College of the Holy Cross, College of New Rochelle, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine of The City University of New York, City College of New York, Davis and Elkins College, and Union College.

Mr. Califano is married to the former Hilary Paley Byers. They have five children: Mark, Joseph III and Claudia Califano, and Brooke Byers and John F. Byers IV, and nine grandchildren: Joseph Anthony IV, Peter Anderson, Brian Philip, Russell Paley, Olivia Rose, Evan Frederic, Nicholas James, Grace Frances and Patrick Joseph.

Joseph A. Califano, Jr. in Conversation with Jonathan Fanton | Posted on January 17th, 2014 | Conversations with Jonathan Fanton, Public Programs