President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
February 09, 2021
The American business community has been an extraordinary source of strength and solutions during a uniquely complicated time in our shared history. The challenges we face are numerous and complex. Entrepreneurs, small business owners, CEOs, and other job creators don’t shrink back from challenges—they rise and overcome them. They find ways to serve their customers and communities in new ways. They adapt and evolve their business models to meet new realities. They harness human ingenuity and innovation to improve our health and enrich our society. And through the toughest of times, they support workers and families and help them lead stable, secure, fulfilling lives through the dignity of work.
This certainly has been evident during this recent period of chaos and crisis, and it has been true across our history. The collective ability of businesses and workers to serve, create, solve, and compete in the American enterprise system is why we have the most dynamic economy in the world.
And it is the enduring mission of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to help those job creators strengthen our economy and expand opportunity—now and for future generations.
As I prepare to take up the mantle of leadership as the next president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, I look to all of those businesses, big and small, for the inspiring examples they set and for the ideas and innovations they continually put forward.
Because forward is the only direction to go.
Globally, American companies will continue to compete and lead the world through our work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit, respect for the rule of law, modern workforce, access to capital, and commitment to free markets—all of which are built into the culture of American Democracy. Strong U.S. engagement in markets around the world through trade will be essential to our own long-term growth and global stability. And the leadership and partnership of the American business community will be needed to seize major opportunities for global progress, from distributing vaccines worldwide and addressing climate change to solving food scarcity and lifting people out of poverty.
Domestically, we must move forward into a robust and widespread recovery that extends not only to the industries and workers who have fared well in the pandemic, but also to those who continue to struggle. At the same time, there are limitless opportunities for growth and innovation thanks to accelerated technological advancements over the past year. We must nurture these opportunities with the right policies that help, not hinder, our progress. And we must create pathways to employment in the fastest growing industries to harness the potential of our people, strengthen our communities, and help drive a new era of inclusive growth.
The politics of the moment must not hold us back from the work of the future. It’s true, our country is deeply divided, and so our politicians are divided. But if we’re all in the same boat—and we are—how far can we go while rowing in opposite directions? This moment calls for our leaders to act with both urgency and foresight. They should not waste energy by working at cross-purposes or squander goodwill by pursuing hyper-partisan agendas.
I don’t think history will judge today’s flame-throwers and rabble-rousers to be the brave ones. It will be the leaders who had the guts to work together to help the American people, the discipline to engage in responsible governing and problem solving, and the vision to put us on the path to a brighter future. Those are the leaders we will stand by and work with.
The importance of business and government working together cannot be overstated. The government must be a partner, not an impediment, so that business can be bold in its endeavors—whether that’s helping eradicate the pandemic, modernizing our infrastructure, or transforming the workforce for the jobs of the future.
Business is inherently bold. I learned that the best and hardest way by starting and running a company. I have experienced the exhilaration of telling people, “You got the job,” and the pressure of making payroll every month. I understand the thrill of seeing a business plan come to life from the back of a napkin, as well as the frustration of wading through the red tape and obstacles that far too often come from government.
That’s ultimately why I came back to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2014 and have spent the past six years working to make it stronger—so that all businesses can be as bold and successful as they dream or dare to be.
I am so fortunate to talk with small business owners, CEOs, chamber executives, and business association leaders across the country and witness how they are a part of this bold mission. It is the privilege of my lifetime to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them to stimulate the economy and create jobs. It is an honor to lead the Chamber team—men and women of great character and exceptional talent—who work tirelessly to advance our shared purpose. And I am thankful to our board of directors, who volunteer their time and share their expertise to hold the Chamber in trust for American business.
I will reserve for another post all that I’ve learned and the business community has gained from Tom Donohue. He has been a fighter, a dealmaker, a statesman, a mentor, and a friend to so many of us through more than two decades of service. It’s fitting to end this note with his best advice, which is to always leave something stronger than you found it.
And so, I will take on the role of president and CEO with a profound sense of service and responsibility to the members we are proud to represent.
Together, we move forward.
About the authors
Suzanne P. Clark
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
As President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Suzanne Clark heads strategy, government relations and market innovation to support member companies and businesses.