Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.
Guest blog post by Antwaun Griffin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations
As the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations within the International Trade Administration's (ITA) U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, I help oversee all aspects of the Department of Commerce's trade promotion and export assistance services. This includes the management of 109 U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEAC’s) around the country as well as oversight of the government’s efforts to recruit U.S.-based exhibitors and foreign buyers to domestic and international trade shows. In addition, my office also oversees the planning and execution of most government-led trade missions.
Often times this work involves critical analysis of our internal business operations to ensure that they are aligned with staff needs and those of our various clients—small businesses, industry associations, state and local governments and other federal agencies involved in trade promotion. Other times, it involves traveling to meet with business owners and groups to encourage them to export—thus creating or retaining more jobs here in the United States.
As we approach the 3rd anniversary of the National Export Initiative (NEI), my team and I are really focused on ensuring that all of our various programs and human resources are working toward President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014.
I am a native of Richmond, Virginia and attended Armstrong High School. Named for General Samuel Armstrong (a Union General and founder of Hampton University), it was the first public school in Richmond, and one of the first in the nation financed by the federal government to educate African-American students. Growing up in the “inner city," no one ever talked about the school’s history or the circumstances around its founding. Folks often assumed that this school was like all other local public schools and just happened to be predominantly African-American due to the demographics of its surrounding neighborhoods.
I mention these facts because it’s sometimes easy to forget the role that the U.S. government has played in righting historical wrongs and creating an environment where its citizens have the absolute best chance of succeeding.
That said, I am especially proud to serve in the Obama administration and alongside so many other hard working and dedicated public servants. Having served at the U.S. Small Business Administration for two years and at the Department of Commerce now for almost a year, I am heartened by the pride and enthusiasm for the mission that’s exhibited by our front line and senior staff every day.
Having worked in politics and in various parts of the private sector, I can say with relative certainty that government service here in Washington has been the highlight of my career. I honestly feel that my service is a small way of paying forward the investment that all of my teachers, mentors and peers back at Armstrong High have made in me. I strongly encourage talented people with a desire to “give back” to strongly consider public service. Whether as a teacher, police officer, or bureaucrat such as myself, we all have an obligation to positively impact the communities and country which have given us so much.