Well I’ve been in Washington 31 years, since I graduated from law school, and I came to Washington because I thought I was going to go into government. I had a judicial clerkship, and while I was clerking, Ronald Reagan was elected, and I didn’t want to go into a Republican administration so I went to a big law firm to hide out until the Democrats came back. Well, it took the Democrats 12 years. So after about five years at Steptoe and Johnson, it was time to move on. And luckily BET was a client and so I went over to start the legal department at BET. So I kind of lucked into business.
Fast forward to 2008, when President Obama was elected. I knew him personally, so that provided a great opportunity for me to take my business skills and try to help the administration. I remember the first week he was in office, he had a small meeting of about twelve CEOs to talk about the stimulus plan, and he invited me in as part of that small group. Since then, I’ve been over to the White House many times. And it culminated about a year ago when the president appointed me to the President’s Management Advisory Board, which is a group of about ten CEOs who provide advice to the president on how to run the government better.
I feel like I’m very fortunate to have finally brought my Kennedy School public policy training together with my business skills, and hopefully I’m in a position to help this administration. But I’ve always loved politics, I’ve always loved policy, and I’ve always loved being in Washington.
In fact, when President Obama was elected, several people asked me was I going to go into the administration, and there were rumors floating. I was like, “Why would I do that? I have the best of all worlds.” So I never went into a government agency, per se, but I’ve been able to work it into what I do.
Have you found that your interest in policy and politics has shaped your management style?
I think it did. As COO and now CEO of the largest black media company in the world, I think I always felt a special responsibility to be involved in policy issues that affect black business, that affect women’s issues, that affect young girls and families. I mean, there’s a whole slate of issues that I’m personally interested in helping with. And my position as a business leader, and as an African American female business leader, has given me a platform to speak out on certain issues.