On January 26, 2012, I attended an exclusive, “off the record dinner for Florida business and community leaders to discuss the growing global national security and economic challenges our country faces today.” The guest speaker was none other than the first Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge. I was fascinated by what I heard from Secretary Ridge.
I had expected the first Assistant to the President for Homeland Security following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and the first Secretary from 2003 to 2005 of the then new U.S. Department of Homeland Security to give the usual law enforcement speech about securing U.S. borders and ports, counter-terrorism, deporting illegal immigrants, etc. None of those ideas were discussed directly. Instead, the entire discussion initiated by Secretary Ridge was about promoting international trade as a way of ensuring economic security, and through our economic security, we maintain our leadership in the world. Even after I peppered him with questions, he did not waiver. Such a transformation was both surprising and impressive considering the current “5 Core Missions” of DHS.
The delightful dinner was sponsored by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. The USGLC is a broad-based, bipartisan coalition of more than 400 businesses, non-profits, faith-based, and community leaders led by Honorary Chair Colin Powell. I am a member of the USGLC’s Florida Advisory Committee.
The new wisdom from Secretary Ridge should be seriously considered by our political leaders. But, that’s just the view of one customs and international trade attorney.