Adewale Adeyemo Just Made History As The First Black Person Nominated as Deputy Treasury Secretary


December 4, 2020

Another first for the Biden-Harris administration!

President-elect Joe Biden is naming those who will work on the Biden-Harris transition to the White House, their communications department, and those appointed to the other key departments within the administration. On Monday, Adewale ‘Wally’ Adeyemo made history as the first Black person chosen as Deputy Treasury Secretary. If confirmed, he will work with Cecilia Rouse, the first Black person nominated to chair the Council of Economic Advisers. 



The 39-year-old Nigerian American is currently president of the Obama Foundation president, the non-profit founded by our forever president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, to help communities around America and the world. Before coming on board, he was at the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, where he was senior advisor and interim chief of staff to Larry Fink, the chief executive. 

During the Obama-Biden administration, Adeyamo held several senior positions. He was the president’s senior international economic adviser, deputy national security advisor, deputy director of the national economic council and first chief of staff of the consumer financial protection bureau. Before working for the Obama administration, he worked at the Hamilton Project as an editor before becoming a senior advisor and deputy chief of staff to Jacob Lew at the United States Department of Treasury.

He tweeted that he’s ready to make policy choices that will benefit everyone across the country.


Born in Nigeria, he emigrated to Southern California as a baby with his parents. His father was a teacher, his mother, a nurse, who raised him and his younger siblings in a two-bedroom apartment. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he was president of the students association; following graduation, Adeyemo went onto Yale, where he got his law degree.


“In California’s Inland Empire, where I had grown up in a working-class neighborhood, the Great Recession hit us hard,” he said Tuesday after being introduced by President-elect Biden. “We were one of the foreclosure capitals of the United States. The pain of this was real for me.”

Adeyemo became the deputy executive secretary to Secretary Timothy F. Geithner at the Treasury Department in 2009. Then was sent to work at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he was chief of staff to Senator Elizabeth Warren. During his time at the Treasury he worked on issues involving sanctions and international trade. He had a hand in negotiations for the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership, focusing on currency provisions in the agreements foreign exchange chapter. His former boss, Lew, spoke highly of his abilities brokering such an intense deal. 

“He put together an approach that frankly has withstood the test of time, even though TPP has not had U.S. participation,” Lew told The New York Times. “It became the model of how currency issues were dealt with in subsequent trade agreements.” 


The former undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury during the Obama administration, David S. Cohen, also praised Adeyemo’s nomination. He told the Times that Adeyemo’s knowledge of the Treasury and experience with domestic policy, international economics, and national security would make him a strong partner to Janet Yellen, the nominee for treasury secretary. 

“In some respects, he’s a perfect complement to Yellen at Treasury,” Cohen said.

Keep breaking barriers, Wale! 


Photo Credit: The New York Times

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