Kay Coles James First Black Woman to Lead Conservative Heritage Foundation

by January 4, 2018

Kay Coles James is the newest president of the conservative Heritage Foundation and the first African American woman to lead the organization. She plans to set an example by working with other points of view. Her goal is to have a positive impact in the Black community.

“I’ve seen the rhetoric heighten [since President Donald Trump took office] on all sides,” said James, 68. “And, when you’re a conservative, Black Republican, you know what the rhetoric is like on the ‘Left’ and, trust me, it’s not good.”

James describes herself as a “happy warrior”. Big challenges come with the job, but James is proud to celebrate Black achievement.

“It’s a fine line of acknowledging and taking a minute to stop and celebrate, not only what this means for me, but also for our community,” said James. “When African Americans are being recognized as leaders, no matter where they are on the political spectrum, I’m glad to see it from the both the ‘Left’ and the ‘Right.’”

Heritage Foundation – James recalled Obama’s first election

James celebrated the accomplishments of Barack Obama and admired his Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett. She’s been encouraged to see that people are also celebrating what it means for her to be an African American woman in conservative public policy think tank.

James believes that Americans are tired of the “toxic environment that exists in Washington right now, where we hate people who disagree with us.”

James continued: “I’m not saying that we will sit down at the table and all agree—we will not—but if we as Americans can’t demonstrate to the rest of the world what it looks like in a pluralistic society, to reach a consensus and move forward, then what can we say to the Sunnis and Shias?”

The Heritage Foundation president said that Americans have to demonstrate what it looks like for thoughtful people to solve problems.

Official biography

According to her official biography on the Heritage Foundation’s website, James began her career in public service as a member of the National Commission on Children under President Ronald Reagan and later served as associate director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and as assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President George H.W. Bush. In 2001, James returned to the federal government to serve as President George W. Bush’s director of the Office of Personnel Management.

“In 2017, James and former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III led President Donald Trump’s transition team for the Office of Management and Budget, Office of Personnel Management, and General Services Administration,” her biography said.

James is a graduate of Hampton University, the recipient of numerous honorary degrees. She is the author of three books, and the founder and president of The Gloucester Institute. The Gloucester Institute is an organization that trains and nurtures leaders in the African American community.

Motivation comes from my five grandchildren

“Someone once told me about QTR—Quality Time Remaining—and I think about the QTR I have and I want to do something meaningful. For me, being the President of the Heritage Foundation is the best way to use my QTR … I look into the eyes of my grandchildren and think about the world today, my pledge to them is that I will do whatever I can to turn things around.”

James added that she wants to see more people in politics that are willing to engage with others that they might not agree with on every issue.

James said that the reports that the Heritage Foundation must remain on the same page with the White House are untrue. The organization holds everyone’s feet to the fire, no exceptions, she said.

“We can fight it out, we can debate, but the end goal is the same. You may think your route to get there is best and I may think of another route, but let’s not question each other’s character or ethnicity.”

Historic achievements

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), congratulated James for her historic achievement. He said that he looks forward to nurturing a mutually, beneficial relationship with the Heritage Foundation under her leadership.

“The NNPA is hopeful that Black Republican leaders like [James] will now open the door to ensure that the Black Press in America will be supported by the substantial advertising dollars that conservative entities will spend in 2018,” said Chavis. “The awakened, national Black vote should not be taken for granted by liberals or conservatives.”

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