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A Day with African-American Business Leaders

Posted by Michael Blake, Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement & Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
This week about 150 African-American business leaders attended a briefing on the White House campus concerning the Administration's policy agenda for 2009.
With Harvard Business School's African-American Alumni Association serving as the lead organizer, 24 business schools and the National Black MBA Association were represented.
Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett brought greetings to the group sharing that the door will be open as we continue to assemble the best ideas to implement change in America.  Her COS Mike Strautmanis conveyed that there are no excuses; this is our moment to work together to fulfill President Obama's agenda and vision. Office of Public Engagement Director Tina Tchen spoke of the need for more conversations where we learn from leaders who are out in the community and develop strategies for collaboration.
Valerie Jarrett speaks (Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett speaks at a briefing with African-American business leaders on the White House campus, May 19, 2009.Photo credit: Karen Richardson)
The briefing featured thorough and informative presentations on our three policy priorities: health care, education and energy. Congressman Danny Davis provided an overview and spoke of the need for healthy communities, how education is the passport to a successful life and how the need for clean energy is an issue for today not tomorrow.
Dora Hughes of Health and Human Services, Van Jones from the Council on Environmental Quality, and Roberto Rodriguez who works on education on the Domestic Policy Council offered details on policies in their issue areas discussing why change is needed, the benefits that come from the President’s policy investments, what happens if we don't change and how we are going about actually implementing President Obama's vision.
Van Jones sits in the audience(Van Jones of the the Council on Environmental Quality, right, sits in the audience before presenting at a briefing with African-American business leaders on the White House campus, May 19, 2009. Photo credit: Karen Richardson)
The attendees later engaged Commerce Department Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Wade and Domestic Policy Council Associate Director Derek Douglass in a town hall discussion asking questions concerning Administration policies, and sharing best practices from their experiences as business leaders from across the country.
The session ended with a presentation on the need for more Americans to consistently commit to service in their communities. Office of Public Engagement Deputy Director Buffy Wicks spoke about the President’s service initiative and how this movement for continual community service this summer is designed to spark a new era of giving back all across America.
It was a remarkable, historic day where African-American business leaders from across the country met at the White House to learn, discuss and engage in a policy conversation. Now, the work continues with everyone taking the wisdom and message of change back to their respective homes.