(L) Congressman Mark Sanford, (R) BidLan President Jesse Williams
BidLAN’s president, Jesse Williams, had the privilege of attending president Obama’s final State of the Union address (SOTU) last Tuesday. Upon his return from this historical event, he shared with the BidLan blog team what it meant to him.
blog: Why were you invited to the SOTU?
Jesse: I am very involved in community outreach in Charleston, SC. In 2007 I started the nonprofit ‘Take it to the Streets’, which helps lower income neighborhoods become thriving neighborhoods. We do this through our high school mentoring and arts program, and goal setting, resume writing, and job interview training classes. We also help with the job placement process.
I have also been involved in working with the police in minority communities, and advocating for social reforms after the AME church tragedy. And I ran for city council this past election cycle on the platform of bringing change to our community.
So, I’ve been in the news a lot lately. One of South Carolina’s congressman, Mark Sanford, took note of my activities and invited me to attend the president’s SOTU.
BidLAN Blog: It sounds like you’re a very busy person. Why is community outreach so important to you?
Jesse: For me it’s all about passion, challenge, fulfillment, and impacting lives. Instead of waiting until I’m retired, I want to live for what I’m passionate about, right now, while I’m still young and full of energy.
I am passionate about empowering minority communities, and helping people thrive. I am able to use my MBA for the good of others. And in the process, I get to meet other amazing, like-minded individuals. I’m living with purpose.
BidLAN blog: Was there anything that was said at the event that had a big impact on you?
Jesse: Towards the end of his speech president Obama said that even when he is no longer president, he will work hard to make the US a better place. He kind of gave a shout out to those of us who are doing the hard work on the community grassroots level. And he emphasized the importance of showing unconditional love.
He said that the power of unconditional love is our strength.
BidLAN blog: Why did that impact you?
Jesse: Well, on the surface, it may seem that love and business don’t go hand in hand. But they really do. You see, love is about looking outside of yourself, looking out for the needs of the people around you. When you are meeting the people where their needs are, you don’t have to sell anything, because you are offering them a product they want. You are offering them something that is a solution to a problem they are facing.
That’s what BidLAN is doing. We’re solving a problem that small businesses, municipalities, local and even the national government all have. We are building something that the people want.
BidLAN blog: Absolutely. So, how do you think having attended this event will impact your mission to create opportunities for minority and disadvantaged business (DBE) groups?
Jesse: The SOTU clarified so many things for me. Its kind of like when you’re a kid and you have this idea in your head of what Disneyland is like. But, when you actually get to see Disney, with your own two eyes, nothing can compare. Before this opportunity I had a pretty good idea of what the government is and how it functions. But now, I’ve been able to see first hand how our democracy works. I got to meet congressman and cabinet members. I better understand the work and collaboration that goes into getting bills and legislation passed.
Now, I have a clearer vision of the path that was taken to make great changes like that of the Civil Rights Act of 1967, which helped pave the way for DBE contracting initiatives.
BidLAN blog: It seems like you benefitted a great deal from this experience. Thanks for taking the time to share your insights with us. There’s just one last question to ask before you go…did you get to meet anyone famous?
Jesse: (Laughs) Well, I did get to meet a lot of congressman. And I think it was really cool that I got to meet the republican majority leader.
Cool indeed. We know that the fire Jesse returned to Charleston with will be invaluable as we steadily work towards BidLAN’s beta release.