Former President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary attended a memorial service Sunday in Lisner Auditorium to pay tribute to the late Eli Segal, an aide to his cabinet and chief executive of the service organization AmeriCorps.
GW students, Segal’s family, friends and some of the politicians that Segal worked with, including 1972 Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern, attended the event. Segal died in February in Boston of a rare form of cancer. He was 63.
The Clintons’ appearance on campus was fairly low-key. The event was not publicized much except for on the College Democrats’ listserv. University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg attended the service.
Those who spoke at the service remembered Segal as the ultimate public servant, a selfless worker for the public good and a strong supporter of the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton, the junior Democratic senator from New York and possible 2008 presidential candidate, did not speak.
“He knew how to make things work and how to make things happen,” Bill Clinton said. “Eli could imagine someone else’s idea, in this case, my idea (of AmeriCorps), and turn it into an effective, organized reality.”
Segal, who was an aide to Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, became an assistant to the president after Clinton’s win and in 1993 worked with Clinton to develop the Corporation for National and Community Service, or AmeriCorps.
“We have learned to take on dreams and make them a reality,” Clinton said, adding that “nobody did that better than Eli.”
A graduate of Brandeis University who obtained his law degree from the University of Michigan, Segal had a long career in public service and in Democratic presidential campaigns. After Segal’s work at AmeriCorps he helped found the Welfare to Work Partnership with Clinton in 1997.
The memorial service included a video tribute and musical performances, as well reflections on Segal’s personality, life and work from more than 15 friends and relatives.
His life in public service began long before his work in Clinton’s administration. Segal worked with McGovern’s 1972 democratic presidential campaign as a strategist. McGovern remembered Segal at Sunday’s service.
“We remember his sturdy idealism and his devotion to public good,” McGovern said.
“Eli had courage in seeking to halt ill-conceived and unnecessary wars that degrade our moral standing in the world,” McGovern added.
Other speakers at the service included Congressman Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), some of Segal’s colleagues from AmeriCorps and some of his life-long friends he first met in college.