Features: The Young & The Guest List

More from 2014’s geniuses, visionaries, crusaders and innovators shaping Washington.

Tonya Williams and Kevin Lewis (Photo by Tony Powell)

Tonya Williams and Kevin Lewis (Photo by Tony Powell)

TONYA WILLIAMS
Director of Legislative Affairs, Office of the Vice President, The White House

What is the most important issue you are working on?
Job creation. The administration continues to work on a number of legislative and executive initiatives, as well as the pursuit of public-private partnerships to create job training and employment opportunities.  As the Vice President has repeatedly stated, a job is about more than a paycheck. It is about dignity. It is paramount that we provide an opportunity for hardworking individuals to be productive citizens and contributing members of their communities. It is also important that we establish and maintain a living/minimum wage that rewards hard work.

What are you most looking forward to after you leave the White House? 
More predictable nights/weekends and uninterrupted travel.

Motto/quote you live by?
“Do unto others as you would have other do unto you.”

Favorite charity/cause?
National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be The Match Registry. They accept monetary donations, but its primary purpose is to register and match patients suffering from blood cancers with unrelated donors. This program is particularly personal to me because my father died of leukemia when I was 18 months old, and African Americans have the lowest chance of being matched, which makes registry and donation that much more important.

All-time favorite book?  
“Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson” by Robert A. Caro. Lyndon Johnson is one of the most fascinating and skillful politicians in US history. The book showcases his keen understanding of people, Congress as an institution and the fundamentals of power, all of which he used to succeed in passing historic legislation and promoting an agenda of opportunity and equality.

What is the most pressing world problem today?
Gender inequality and lack of opportunity, access and protections for women and girls.

Favorite local hangouts/restaurants/bars?
Fiola, NoPa, Wonderland

Favorite apps?
Redfin/Zillow I am mildly obsessed with D.C. real estate. Google Maps I have a horrible sense of direction. Good Enterprise allows me to connect to my work email and computer systems for the White House and the Senate on my iPhone and iPad so I don’t have to carry three or more devices.

Websites you visit most?
New York Times, Prince of Petworth, Google

What are your hobbies?  
Travel, cooking, gardening and I am a budding golfer

What natural talent do you wish you possessed?
I really wish I could sing.

What trait do you have the least tolerance for in yourself and in others? 
Arrogance

KEVIN LEWIS
Press Secretary, Department of Justice (Director of African American Media, White House at time of photo) 

What is the most important issue you are working on? 
I enjoy working on a range of policy priorities of the President, from targeted programs like Promise Zones aimed to help build stronger communities to college affordability programs that create ladders of opportunity for underserved young people and quality affordable health care for American families that have previously denied access because of pre-existing conditions. I have the privilege of not only working for a president who is extremely dedicated to building more economic security for so many Americans, but I also get to work with an extraordinary staff who just give every bit of their time to carry out that vision.

What issues are you working on that affect young people and why should they care? 
Most policy priorities of the president that I work on impact young people. With health care, for example, young people under the age of 26 should know that they have the option of staying under their parents health care or those who may have felt compelled to stay in a job because of health coverage now have access to affordable options if they choose to start their own business. With regards to college affordability, young people should know that the president and the first lady made a call to action to work with colleges to create programs that help struggling students, increased Pell Grants, provided mandatory funding to our nation’s HBCUs, and are building stronger ties between the business community and community colleges.

What are you most looking forward to after you leave the White House?
Spending more time with family and traveling.

Motto/quote you live by? 
Trust the process because everything that you do, large or small, brings you one step closer to your longer journey of success in life.

All-time favorite book?
“Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela”

What is the most pressing world problem today?
There are several, but I think that global education and literacy would be one of my top concerns. A strong education is one of the best ways to level the playing field and create a pathway to equality.

Favorite local hangouts/restaurants/bars?
Civil Cigar Bar, The Gibson, Chez Billy, Oohhs and Aahhs for comfort food, Patty Boom Boom for good reggae.

Favorite apps? 
Uber, Park Mobile, Instagram, Hotel Tonight  

Websites you visit most? 
TheGrio.com, NYtimes.com, Suite Supply

What are your hobbies?
Traveling, exercising, trying new restaurants, shopping

What natural talent do you wish you possessed?
Running a marathon (working on it), playing the guitar and speaking multiple languages; I do know a little Italian and Spanish.

What trait do you have the least tolerance for in yourself and in others?
I take issue with people that don’t pay it forward. Someone helped you to get to where you are so it really is your duty to do the same.

cropped amb.

Amb. La Celia A. Prince (Photo by Tony Powell)

LA CELIA A. PRINCE
Ambassador. Embassy of St. Vincent & The Grenadines 

What is the biggest issue facing your country? 
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a developing nation and one of its biggest challenges is that of advancing its development in an already difficult global financial environment. The effects of the global recession have no doubt impacted us, and our recovery has been slower than it has been in developed countries. As a country with a small, vulnerable economy easily susceptible to external shocks, ours is the challenge of trading on reasonable terms, with trading partners with economies much larger than ours; curbing the growing security challenges that threaten the Western hemisphere; and doing all this while raising the standard of living, education and health of our citizens. As an island-nation, we also face the serious threat of worsening natural disasters, which erode the small steps we make in our development each time we are struck by a natural disaster. Over Christmas, we were impacted by a disaster that dealt us a serious blow, which will cost us millions of dollars in rebuilding and rehabilitating the affected areas of our country. Dealing with the effects of climate change and the impact on small countries such as mine is an added burden threatening our development and stretching our scarce resources.

What has been your greatest achievement as ambassador and what do you still hope to achieve?
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a small nation with a population of 110,000 persons. Since we are not a large country in terms of either size or economy, it makes it difficult for us to make a greater impact in the international and diplomatic arena, and Washington D.C. is no exception. I think that overall, I have been able to build on the work of my predecessors, and bring greater visibility and profile to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I have leveraged our relationships with other nations, organizations, the private sector and our Diaspora in order to advance the policy agenda of our government. Through these relationships, I hope to bring greater investment and partnership opportunities to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Your favorite vacation spots in your country that travelers shouldn’t miss?
St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is s a multi-island state of 32 small islands and cays, nine of which are inhabited. We are the complete package—with mainland St. Vincent being verdant, rugged and mountainous, so it is great for hikes to the volcano and several water falls. The topography of the Grenadine islands is different in that they are less mountainous. That is where you find some of the world’s best waters to sail, snorkel or scuba dive. Even though I am from mainland St. Vincent, my favourite place is Bequia, a completely unspoilt, naturally beautiful island. If there is paradise on earth, it would be Bequia. Incidentally, outgoing Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall visited there two years ago; I helped her plan the trip and she was sold! But travelers to SVG must also not miss the opportunity to tour Mustique and the Tobago Cays.

Motto/quote you live by? 
One of my favourite quotes comes from a writer whose work helped me build a greater self-awareness and spirituality. My motto is “I am fully aware that I have to die. That’s why I do not invest to accumulate riches; I invest in life itself…..Only when we have full consciousness of the fact that we die do we feel 100 percent alive.”  ­­­—  Paulo Coelho from “Confessions of a Pilgrim”

Favorite book and what are you currently reading?
The literary world is too rich for me to confine myself to one book as a favourite. I have been riveted by “The Constant Gardener,” spiritually enlightened by “The Pilgrimage,” deeply moved by “Half of a Yellow Sun,” cautioned by “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “Le Petit Prince,” and educated by “Guns, Germs and Steel.” My aim is to be constantly reading books of different subject matters.

Favorite charity/cause?
I do not have a favourite charity, but some of the issues that make quite an impression on me are homelessness and hunger. It is sometimes difficult to fathom that in a country such as the United States, and more particularly a wealthy city such as Washington D.C., that there are so many people that are homeless and hungry. I volunteer at D.C. Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table from time to time.

Favorite local hangouts/restaurants/bars?
Quiet spots that are not overwhelmed by a boisterous crowd appeal to me; I hate having to shout above the din. The Morrison-Clark Inn, Paul bakery and patisserie, and Old Angler’s Inn in Potomac are a few favorites.

Websites you visit most?
CARICOM Network News, which gives a round up of the Caribbean region, BBC News, Le Monde

What are your hobbies?
The outdoors have a certain appeal to me, and I am blessed to be posted in Washington D.C., which has such beautiful scenery. Good weather would find me gardening, hiking, cycling or doing photography. I especially like to document the seasonal changes through photography. I also like the arts, so my free time is infused with a great deal of musical and theatre performances and museum/gallery visits.

What talent do you wish you possessed? 
Without a doubt, singing! I can’t hold a note, but I love music and wish that God had endowed me with some musical talent, or at least the ability to sing decently.

What trait do you have the least tolerance for in yourself and in others? 
We are told that patience is a virtue, so I suppose my severe lack of it is to be regarded as one of my character flaws. I recognize that I need to work harder on mastering myself in this respect, but to be honest I do think that impatience has its virtues. On countless occasions it has helped me resolve some of the most intractable problems and I think when working with a spirit of managed impatience and urgency, I get more work done with better results.

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