Each week the White House honors “everyday Americans doing extraordinary things in their communities.” The initiative is called Champions of Change: Winning the future across America.” The projects vary from homelessness to environmental sustainability.
On July 31st the White House recognized Champions of Change in the transportation sector. Thirteen individuals were honored for their work as Transportation Innovators, “individuals or organizations who have provided exemplary leadership in the growth and expansion of the transportation industry.”
I was thrilled to be named as a White House Transportation Innovator Champion of Change! I was notified that I had been selected from hundreds of nominations and that I would be honored at a program at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House.
We were asked to participate in a conference call to discuss the event and to understand our role. This was when I learned who the other recipients were, and the list was impressive. Beverly Scott, CEO of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, David Barger, President and CEO of Jet Blue, David Bennet, CEO of Proterra, a zero emission solution for the transit industry, and Susan Martinovich, Director of the Nevada Department of Transportation, were just a few of the honorees.
Each of us contributed a blog for the White House website.
We were divided into two groups: one that serves in a national capacity and the other focusing on local transportation issues. Each group formed a panel to discuss their challenges and accomplishments. Federal Aviation Administrator, Michael Huerta, moderated my panel.
We were encouraged to bring guests to the event. I invited my board of directors to join me at the presentation. I was also allowed to invite one person to visit the White House with me prior to the event. I was thrilled to have my friend, John, accompany me to the White House and to the Champions of Change program, joining directors of the board, Leigh Foxall, Jeff Hammonds, Jan Hamblin and Laura Roan.
John and I toured the White House and the highlight for me was when Bo, the Obama’s dog, walked past us inside the Rose Garden hall!
I arrived at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building before the program started so the Champions could meet one another and each of us could be videotaped for the White House website. I was able to chat with Anne Ferro, FMCSA Administrator, and many of the Department of Transportation team, who I had worked with on a number of initiatives to encourage women to become more involved in the transportation industry. I was greeted with lots of hugs and congratulatory good wishes.
At 11 am Kyle Lierman kicked off the program from the white House Office of Public engagement and introduced US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood for his remarks. Then, each Champion was presented individually to the audience and I had the pleasure of being introduced by Anne Ferro, who has become a true friend and supporter of Women In Trucking Association.
Secretary LaHood’s role was to pose for photos with each recipient. After being introduced, I was thrilled when the Secretary held up his finger and pointed at me and said, “This is a great organization … that has gone above and beyond… in terms of thinking outside the box.”
After each Champion was seated, photos were taken. The first panel began with remarks from FAA Administrator Huerta. We talked about our initiatives and what prompted us to promote change in our respective areas. From high speed rail to trolley cars to public transit and bike paths, each of us had a passion for finding a solution to a problem. It was truly an amazing group of individuals who had worked hard to address a need in their community, state or nation.
The program concluded with remarks by Jon Carson, the White House Director of the Office of Public Engagement who asked each of us to tell the stories of the Champions of Change, “While we’re here in Washington arguing over budgets, arguing over taxes … there are folks like our Champions of Change who are making a difference every day in their community and that’s the story we want to tell.”
Click here to watch the program.