Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.
Guest blog by Jim Stowers, Director of Legislative Affairs.
As Director of Legislative Affairs at the Department of Commerce, I serve as a senior advisor in the Office of the Secretary on legislative matters before Congress and other federal departments.
My journey to this point in my career began about 25 years ago when I was growing up in Benton County, Arkansas and had the good fortune one Saturday evening to hear Senator Dale Bumpers speak at the annual Little Flock Picnic. I don’t recall everything Senator Bumpers said in his speech that night, but I do recall being star struck by an exceptionally gifted speaker and inspired by his pursuit of the common good through public service.
That moment - combined with my growing awareness of the political process and its importance – inspired me to pursue an internship in Senator Bumpers’ Washington office while I was in college and later serve for 12 years in the office of U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln. Today, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to continue my public service in the Obama Administration at the Department of Commerce.
Like most of my gay and lesbian friends, my own coming out experience was a process which occurred over time. I haven’t always been comfortable being open in the workplace about my sexuality. But the good news for gay and lesbian youth is: it is easier to be open about who you are today than it was 20 years ago when I started as intern on Capitol Hill and I am confident it will be even easier 20 years from now.
I would like to celebrate this Pride Month by thanking the courageous GLBT role models who have blazed trails and opened doors in the workplace for GLBT Americans everywhere. I feel incredibly fortunate to work in an environment in which I am affirmed and accepted. Without a doubt, that support enables me to focus on my job to promote the priorities of the Commerce Department and the Obama Administration to expand economic opportunities for all Americans by increasing exports, supporting innovation and economic development, and many other important initiatives. It also helps that I occasionally get to dance with my co-workers to the Zac Brown Band when our team needs a short break.
My advice for GLBT youth in particular is to pursue a career path that inspires you and don’t be afraid to be yourself. You are not alone. Life presents many challenges in addition to many rewarding opportunities to help make the future better for yourself, your loved ones and all Americans.