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MIT alumnus David Miliband appointed British Foreign Secretary

Rt. Hon. David Miliband
Rt. Hon. David Miliband

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has named MIT alumnus David Miliband as secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, Downing Street announced Thursday.

A native of London and graduate of Oxford, Miliband was a Kennedy Scholar at MIT, receiving the S.M. degree in political science in 1990.

He is a grandson of Warsaw Ghetto survivors and the son of a Marxist theorist who protested the U.S. war in Vietnam; his childhood ambition was to become a bus conductor.

At 41, Miliband is Britain's youngest foreign secretary in 30 years, and, in true MIT manner, the first cabinet member to have his own blog and to launch a wiki.

His blog entry for June 28 notes he was "honoured" to be named foreign secretary and will likely "take some time" before he blogs again. Topics of earlier blog entries range from his meeting on climate change with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ("He looked in great shape") to his endorsement of a personal "carbon calculator," so citizens may individually tackle global warming, the "mass mobilizing movement of our age."

Miliband has held two previous cabinet-level jobs. Most recently he served as secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs under former Prime Minister Tony Blair. In that role, he represented Britain in international negotiations on sustainable development and climate change.

As environment secretary, he urged Washington to provide strong leadership to meet the world's climate challenges; as foreign secretary, he is expected to strengthen the role of diplomacy in addressing global warming.

According to BBC analysts, Brown's cabinet members are expected to be able to criticize the United States and Israel--a shift from Blair's approach.

This shift may be pronounced quickly, due to the toll of the war in Iraq: Three British soldiers were killed there the day Miliband's appointment was announced. Britain's role in that war, controversial domestically, presents him an urgent challenge, analysts say.

Miliband is the editor of two books, "Paying for Inequality: Economic Cost of Social Justice" (1994) and "Reinventing the Left" (1994).

He is married to Louise Shackelton, a violinist with the London Symphony Orchestra; they have one son.

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