A True Statesman

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I’ve had a great many wonderful experiences being part of the staff at KnowledgeWorks. First and foremost, I cherish the people I’ve been able to work with, know, and learn from. This includes working with our board of directors.

Recently, former Secretary of Education and former Governor of South Carolina Dick Riley rotated off our board after over a decade of service. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work closely with Secretary Riley. I could go on for the rest of the blog post about his resume, sense of fairness, or the fact that he is a true statesman. However, I’ll focus on the man and my connection.

I grew up in South Carolina during the late 1970s/early 1980s when Riley was Governor. My family  discussed politics at the dining room table, and among my first political memories were the names Kennedy and Riley. I had a keen understanding at 4 years old that Riley was the Governor of the state and thus like the state’s Daddy.

I grew up and ended up living in 8 states and two countries before one afternoon when I was reading the Pat Conroy novel, Beach Music, one of my favorite books, Governor Riley showed up again. Conroy had woven Riley into his story of forgiveness and redemption set in Beaufort, SC.

Even later, when Riley was the Secretary of Education under President Clinton, he helped to craft a program called GEAR UP, and I helped to write and secure a GEAR UP grant before going on to direct it for 7 years. Even then, for me, Riley was larger than life. He had breathed life into a program that would be the beginning of my career.When I transitioned to KnowledgeWorks, Secretary Riley was on the Board. I worked with him closely to help craft strategies to support innovation along the I-95 Corridor in South Carolina and traveled the state with him. His grace, insight, quick wit, and hand crushing handshakes endear him to all he encounters and inspired me.

In speaking about the Secretary at a recent Board meeting, I offered that one of my favorite musicians, Ryan Adams, wrote the following lyric in the song “Oh My Sweet Carolina,”

“All the sweetest winds they blow across the south.”

Secretary Riley is one of those sweet winds.