Reta Jo Lewis always wanted to work for the President of the United States.
If you go
WHAT: Wide Angle Lunch: “Diplomacy and Statecraft: Leading, Leveraging and Engaging Global Communities,” a talk by U.S. State Department Special Representative Reta Jo Lewis.WHEN: 12:30 p.m. today.WHERE: Charleston Library Society, 164 King St.COST: $20 Library Society members; $25 non-members.MORE INFO: Advance reservation required. Call (800) 838-3006 or go to www.wideanglelunches.org. Lunch provided by Butcher & Bee. Childcare is available.
Growing up in Statesborough, Ga., that interest was fueled by circumstances: Her parents were very involved in the community, setting an example of public service that would stick with Lewis all her life. Her father was an officer in the Democratic Party; her mother was an officer of the NAACP.
“I really came from a very activist family,” she said.
Today, Lewis is Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs, a job she assumed in Jan. 2010 under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who created the position. She continues in that role under Secretary of State John Kerry, to whom she reports.
She will appear Thursday at the Charleston Library Society, which hosts the Wide Angle Lunch series, an opportunity to interrupt the workday with thoughtful discussion on important issues.
Lewis’ talk, called “Diplomacy and Statecraft: Leading, Leveraging and Engaging Global Communities,” starts at 12:30 p.m., includes a boxed lunch (for those who’ve made advanced reservations) and lasts an hour.
She calls herself a facilitator. Lewis brings officials at the federal, state and local levels together to encourage international cooperation among those who do a lot of the economic heavy lifting.
“In the 21st century world, you have to have more people at the table,” she said. “As you look around for economic opportunity, you have to look at individuals who’ve been in this (local and regional) arena a long, long time.” State and local officials are “the economic drivers in their community,” she said, driving home the point.
And so she sits at the crossroads of diplomacy and economic development, getting memoranda of understanding signed that set the stage of cooperation. Brazil is soon to host an Olympic Games and a World Cup. Well, the U.S. has done that, too, and there are people here who can help Brazil with the logistical challenges.
When one community in the world succeeds and thrives, it is good for everyone, Lewis said.
“Everyone is operating (on) a mutually agreeable platform,” she said. “It’s not just about us, it’s not just about them, it’s about working together.”