Dirk Kempthorne — Afghan Freedom Flight
Former Governor of Idaho (‘1999-‘2006) and Secretary of the Interior (‘2006-’09), Dirk Kemphorne will talk about the Afghan Freedom Flight. Sec. Kempthorne’s tale of helping to evacuate 395 Afghan Allies and Americans in 2021 is one not to be missed!
Dirk Kempthorne is a proud graduate of the University of Idaho. After having served as
the President of the Associated Students of the University of Idaho and earning a degree
in political science, Kempthorne was inspired to pursue a career in public service.
Over the next ten years he worked for the State of Idaho in both the Department of Mines
and the Department of Lands and honed his business and leadership skills with the Idaho
Home Builders Association and the FMC Corporation in Idaho. In 1985 he recognized a
timely opportunity to serve his community and ran for mayor of the City of Boise (1985-
1992). During his seven years in office, he helped direct a renaissance in the state's
capital city that resulted in record growth, economic development, and numerous
national honors and recognitions for quality of life, business climate, and family issues.
His success as mayor propelled others to encourage him to run to represent Idaho in the
United States Senate to which he was elected in November 1992. His first bill, to end
unfunded federal mandates on state and local governments, became Senate Bill 1 in the
104th Congress. He also authored the new Safe Drinking Water Act in 1996.
Both of his bills were signed into law by President Bill Clinton. As a member of the
Senate Armed Services Committee he worked to improve the quality of life for American
active-duty military personnel, reservists, their families, and veterans.
Kempthorne returned to our great state when he was elected Governor of Idaho in 1998
and reelected in 2002. He was a champion for education, both early learning and K-12,
including the third grade reading initiative, and higher education. When the Dot-Com
crisis plunged the nation’s economy, Kempthorne proposed the construction of a major
building at every college and university as a way to stimulate Idaho’s economy while
significantly helping higher education. The buildings were funded and built. As chair of
the National Governor’s Association he continued to champion education at all levels.
He initiated a program to enhance Idaho's highways by improving safety and expanding
intra-state commerce. It resulted in 57 different projects over the years, and has been
credited with saving hundreds of lives on Idaho highways, many of whom are Idaho
students driving home for school holidays
As Governor he obtained the largest appropriation for state parks since their creation. He
worked with neighboring states to develop a state-based solution for returning salmon
runs in the region. Following the wildfires of 2000, he worked to change the approach to
forest health and wildfire management. As Commander-in-Chief of the Idaho National
Guard, he oversaw the deployment of the 116 th Cavalry brigade, over 4,300 troops sent to
Iraq for one year. He also oversaw the deployment of many missions by the Idaho Air
In 2006, Governor Kempthorne was asked by President George W. Bush to return to
Washington, D.C. to serve as the 49th Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
He was confirmed on May 26, 2006 and took the oath of office on the same day. Upon taking office he instituted department-wide ethics reforms, which were a priority
throughout his tenure. He directed the establishment of a creed, “Stewardship
for America with integrity and excellence.”
In preparation for the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service
Kempthorne led the Centennial Challenge, a groundbreaking public private partnership
to repair our parks and encourage visitation. A true outdoorsman, the
Governor frequently highlighted our national parks as a great American treasure and
encouraged families and children to get outdoors and explore our lands. As
Administrative Authority for the Freely Associated States in the South
Pacific, Kempthorne visited islands throughout the Pacific. He worked closely with
island leaders to address their unique challenges and facilitate coordination across
In his role as Water Master for the Colorado River he helped guide the seven states that
rely on the water from the river, to properly share the precious water in times of drought.
He also delisted the American Bald Eagle from the Endangered Species list, and listed
the polar bear as threatened, and as Trustee for Native American Tribes he worked
closely with Native American leaders, including addressing education initiatives for
Native American Children.
Following an engaging career in public service, Governor Dirk Kempthorne served as
President and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) from November
2010 to August 2018. He was the chief representative and spokesman for the U.S. life
insurance industry before Congress, the administration, in all state capitals, and in the
international arena. ACLI’s approximately 290 member companies represent 95 percent
of industry assets in the United States.
Governor Kempthorne also served as president of the Global Federation of Insurance
Associations (GFIA). GFIA represents 41 insurance trade associations from around the
world on a broad range of issues affecting the international insurance industry.
Continuing his public service, Governor Kempthorne serves as the Chair of the USS
IDAHO Commissioning Committee Advisory Board and on the Board of Directors of
the Peregrine Fund. He was also part of a team of four who successfully evacuated 395
Americans and Afghan Allies that were being hunted by the Taliban after the U.S. pulled
out of Afghanistan. Kempthorne also serves as a director on three national corporate
boards and travels extensively.
Governor Kempthorne and his wife Patricia are both University of Idaho graduates.
They are now thoroughly enjoying time with their two grown children, six grandchildren
and two very active dogs .