Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.
Guest blog by John Gray, Director of NOAA’s Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.
My father served in the U.S. military so as a child our family moved all over the world. I fondly remember my time in New Mexico, Texas, Washington state, and abroad in Panama and Japan. Even though I was a world traveler as a child, I found Texas to be home. I entered and graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas and graduate school in Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. After college and graduate school I was recruited to work at the Congressional Research Service, a part of the Library of Congress that specifically responds to congressional inquiries. I have held several jobs in Washington, in and out of government, but immediately before starting at NOAA I worked as the Public Outreach Director, Economics for AARP. Prior to that, I worked for almost 8 years at the Department of Commerce where I served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs among many other positions.
I feel very grateful to work in this administration to further the President’s goal of winning the future. At NOAA we perform a variety of services that move the President’s agenda forward. In my role as Director of NOAA’s Office of Legislative Affairs, we help communicate that vision to the Hill every day, ensuring that members of both parties understand how NOAA’s daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring, fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce support America’s economic growth and affect more than one-third of the gross domestic product. I’m particularly proud of NOAA’s effort to establish a climate service, which will provide available information about long term weather for public and private sector audiences and will be a significant innovation in the service that government can provide its citizens. Our work to build sustainable fishing waters will ensure that coastal communities can remain viable.
From an early age, my grandfather had a huge influence on me. His interest in public service and in participating in the public discourse influenced my interest in government and governance. Because he was not in the position to share his views on many topics with a wide audience, being a black man in Texas in the middle and early 20th century, I believe I value my opportunity to serve so much more. His lack of a voice on issues that affected him has made me more aware of the importance of my speaking up and expressing a viewpoint.
Throughout my career, I’ve seen that the most important thing an individual can do is to focus on the job that they have been assigned. It doesn’t matter if you are LGBT or straight, making a good impression with your work is the most political statement anyone can ever make. It changes the way people view you and all you stand for. It disarms critics and cultivates unexpected allies. Here again I see the importance of showing who you are is more effective than saying who you are.