The Congressional Black Caucus Luncheon

October 18, 2022 By Chloe Bohn

Americans want leaders who represent them. The diversity of our leaders’ voices showcases the diversity of the American people and strengthens America’s presence on the global stage.

At an event in celebration of African American leadership in foreign policy, USGLC recently honored Representative Gregory Meeks (NY-05), who serves as the first African American Member of Congress to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13), who serves as the first African American to chair the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. As the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation hosted its 51st Annual Legislative Conference, Liz Schrayer, USGLC President and CEO, sat down for a conversation with these African American trailblazers, underscoring how America’s vibrant diversity on the global stage advances both our national interests and values.

Steve Benjamin, former mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, set the stage by paying tribute to Chairman Meeks and Chairwoman Lee for their leadership: “It’s exciting when our country’s vibrant diversity is reflected on the global stage, particularly at these challenging times.” Hearing experiences and stories from both Meeks and Lee highlighted how America’s investment in diplomacy, development, and diversity strengthens the national security and economic prosperity of the United States.

Celebrating the growing diversity in foreign affairs, Chairman Meeks stated, “America is best when we are diversified.” When asked what pushes her forward when she feels the weight of the world’s problems, Chairwoman Lee relayed the story of attending the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa where she saw a depressingly large sea of yellow T-shirts that read ‘I have HIV.’ Upon her return to the United States, Lee decided to fight to restore $42 million that had previously been taken out of the foreign aid budget to support global health programs. “I did an amendment on the floor and won that $42 million amendment, with bipartisan support.” It is moments like this – moments when she sees she is making a difference – that urge her on, she shared.

Following the conversations with Chairman Meeks and Chairwoman Lee, Citi’s Jahaan Johnson moderated a discussion on the future of diversity and representation in diplomacy and development featuring President and Chair of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. Reta Jo Lewis, Director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency Enoh Ebong, and President and CEO of the U.S. African Development Foundation Travis Adkins.

America’s vibrant diversity on the global stage advances our nation’s interests and values. Our nation can be proud of the work our communities and organizations are doing, like The Coalition for Racial & Ethnic Equity in Development (CREED), who is doing important work to advance racial and ethnic diversity, equality, inclusion, and belonging in America’s foreign policy institutions.