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.
During his recent State of the Union address, President Obama reminded us that in order to be competitive as a country, we need to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” One of the best ways we can celebrate Black History Month is to revive the spirit of past African American inventors and invest more in innovation and entrepreneurship.
It was back in 1907 when Booker T. Washington said, “every member of the race should strive to be successful in business, however humble that business might be.” My work at the Department of Commerce provides me an opportunity to help businesses start, flourish and create high-skill, high-wage jobs.
As Senior Adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary Gary Locke, I advise the secretary and other bureau heads on various policy, personnel and program matters. I serve as liaison to external stakeholders including other federal agencies, states, businesses, trade associations as well faith, minority and Native American communities. I have also represented the department at international forums such as the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT ), Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC ), the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum (AGOA ), and Conference on the Caribbean and Central America (CCCA ). One of my most challenging, but rewarding experiences has been directing the department’s efforts in Haiti  following its devastating earthquake. Additionally, through my work on the White House Task Force  on Small Business Contracting, Auto-Recovery Task Force, Task Force on Puerto Rico, Interagency Business Council, Military Family Interagency Policy Committee and the Vice President’s Task Force on Middle Class America, I have sought to advance the president’s agenda of “Winning the Future.”
A native of Lancaster, South Carolina, I received a B.S. from the University of South Carolina and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University, where I was a Kennedy Fellow. I’ve also studied at both the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. Both Benedict College and South Carolina State University have presented me with Honorary Doctorate degrees.
Throughout life, I have sought to live out the real meaning of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., - “everybody can lead because everybody can serve.” Many years ago, I started Bridge Builders for the Future, a mentoring organization for disadvantaged youth and continue to work with young people through my church and fraternity. Currently a White House mentor, some of my community affiliations include the Sisters of Charity Foundation, Urban League, South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families and the National Stroke Association.
My advice to young people is to be imaginative and help invent the next “big thing” that impacts the world. Become entrepreneurs and develop businesses in high-growth, high-demand industries like clean energy, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing. Help create good jobs in every community so that all people can have a decent quality of life and fully enjoy the freedom and prosperity of our great country.