Lisa D Cook: The evolution of the Federal Reserve's employment mandate

Speech by Ms Lisa D Cook, Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, at the Louis E Martin Awards Ceremony, 2023 Future of Black Communities Summit, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Washington DC, 18 October 2023.

The views expressed in this speech are those of the speaker and not the view of the BIS.

Central bank speech  | 
19 October 2023

Thank you. I am rarely at a loss for words, as my friends, family, and colleagues know all too well. But I do find it a little hard to express everything I am feeling, to be given the Louis E. Martin Great American Award in honor of a truly great American who did so much to make ours a more perfect union. Tough to find the words, but I will try.

Louis Martin did not lack for words. He was prolific, writing and publishing millions of words in newspapers as a key figure in the heyday of Black publishing in the 1950s and 1960s. There were also the words, and I would love to know what they were, that he spoke to the advisers of presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, who helped free the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King from a Georgia prison and arguably changed political history. And there were those words he whispered, in the ears of presidents and politicos, that moved the nation forward on civil rights. When I think about everything Louis Martin accomplished, including the creation of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and I consider the distinguished men and women who have earned this award before me, I am humbled and very grateful.

One way I hope I can show my gratitude is by using this occasion to tell the wider world a story about the civil rights movement that should be better known and that is additionally meaningful to me for two reasons. The first reason is that this is a story about how the Federal Reserve, where I am a policymaker, came to be the first central bank in the world to make maximum employment a primary and explicit goal, coequal with its goal of price stability. And the second reason is that I had the memorable experience, as a Spelman College undergraduate, to hear some details about the lobbying for full employment and other economic policy objectives by one of the leaders of that movement.