As part of WhiteHouse.gov/Hispanic, we are featuring interviews with Obama Administration staff whose work impacts the Hispanic and Latino communities. This interview is with Lisa Garcia, Chief of Staff to the United States Trade Representative.
What is your key responsibility?
As the Chief of Staff in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, my job is to be the right-hand aide to the President’s top trade negotiator – Ambassador Ron Kirk – and to provide leadership and management for USTR, a key economic agency.
I serve as the managing advisor on issues of policy, personnel, and in other areas that serve USTR’s core mission: to make sure that our trade agreements provide real export and job opportunities for Americans, and that those agreements are enforced so that their promised benefits are really felt right here at home.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in the state of Kansas but consider myself a Texan, since our family moved to Houston when I was two. It was supposed to be a temporary stay, but became permanent after my father graduated from the University of Houston and recognized that Houston was the place to stake out our legacy. Houston Hispanics caught the political bug and my family, like so many, was caught up in the excitement of influencing the destiny of our people through the political process. We shared a true sense of responsibility for our community and participating in the political process was key to making changes. I have never known another way of life than to be politically involved, and remember being involved at a young age in the screening of political candidates in the Houston area. My father would smile and take seriously my impressions and evaluations – of course, I volunteered this wisdom whether he asked for it or not!
What is your educational background?
My formal education started with the Dominican Sisters and I am a graduate of Houston’s St. Agnes Academy. I then headed to Austin and attended the University of Texas, received my Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and truly appreciated attending working at the local PBS channel located at the University of Houston. But I also got a political education, working local city, county and state races from the grassroots up, spending several years working in the state House and Senate, then as the Executive Director of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus and was scouted by a global company to lead a regional government affairs office. Eventually I joined the Democratic Presidential campaign in 2004, worked the Florida governor’s race, then worked for Senator John Kerry in Washington for a while, and returned to Texas for my family and established my own consulting firm. But I could not stay away from the excitement surrounding then-Senator Obama’s quest for the White House – and now here I am serving in his Administration.
I do not believe that life is one random event after another. All of these activities built on one another to teach me lessons, enrich my life, and make me more complete as a public servant and as a person.
Are you a member of a notable community organizations, church, or volunteer/mentorship program?
I am a Graduate and Alumni Member of the 2002 Leadership Texas Program, Member/volunteer NALEO National Association for Latino Elected Officials, Mexican American Women’s National Association (MANA) a National Latina Organization lifetime member
During the State of the Union, the President laid out his vision for "Winning the Future" through Education, Building, Innovation, Responsibility, and Reform. How does your role in the Administration help to advance the President's agenda?
Every day, USTR contributes to the President’s work to create jobs in the United States by doing trade in a new way. We’re working to get trade right by talking to more Americans, by listening to more Americans, and by seeking trade agreements that are fair, full of export opportunities around the world and job opportunities here at home. At the President’s direction, we’ve also put a special emphasis on enforcing the trade agreements already on the books – helping to foster a global trade environment in which American innovation can thrive in every corner of the world. As we work to out-educate and out-innovate, USTR will make sure that the fantastic made-in-America products springing from all that effort have ready markets around the globe.
How does your work impact the Hispanic community?
The goal of USTR is to do trade in a new way that increases opportunities for ALL Americans, including the Hispanic community. Specifically our focus with ensuring that our trade agreements provide export opportunities for small businesses – this is key and supports the entrepreneurial spirit of the Hispanic community, my community.