“Government of the people, by the people, for the people…” was often used in the keynote address from the country’s first elected African American Governor, L. Douglas Wilder. His remarks were part of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce’s 31st Annual Meeting on December 9 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. This luncheon is one of the area’s largest local gatherings of business and community leaders and elected officials.
Governor Wilder gave an impactful speech about the essential role of politics and money in this nation. “What happens at the national level impacts us, what trickles down is what hurts us. We look at our localities to help us.”
Governor Wilder became the first African-American to be elected Governor in the United States, leading the Commonwealth of Virginia from 1990-1994. He spoke about the acclaim for his fiscal management and balancing the state budget during challenging economic times. He still takes pride in Virginia’s ranking by Financial World magazine as the best managed state in the United States for two back-to-back years under his administration.
He also has had much influence for creating a National Slavery Museum. He attributed much of that successful drive to another former Governor in the crowd, Bob McDonnell. Governor Wilder thanked Governor McDonnell for approving funding for the National Slavery Museum.
Governor Wilder addressed a crowd of nearly 600 at the Chamber's 2015 Annual Meeting, telling the audience that when he teaches his students at VCU about elections, he is a firm believer that it is difficult to find any proposition or proposal that doesn’t involve money. There is not a single thing you can find or name that doesn’t involve money. He believes that American people need to be made a part of the partnership of the government.
Being the first African-American to be elected Governor, people are often curious on how he got elected in Virginia. “We make a mistake by judging people by the way they talk, dress, and look,” said Governor Wilder. He went to every city and state and talked to the people. He didn’t want a traveling campaign; he wanted to go through the backwoods of cities and states. He didn’t want to stay in hotels or motels; he wanted to stay with the citizens of that city he was visiting. He wanted to get a true appreciation for the people that lived in that city and in that state. Governor Wilder states, “If you do not leave Virginia, you may not care about the other states.” You may live in Virginia, but you should also care about what is going on in the other states around you, because some things could affect Virginia.
Former Governor Wilder concluded his address by stating that he is a Son of Virginia. He comes from a family of slaves. He is proud that people can come from being slaves to holding a position of leadership. “Our responsibility is to press on to the next generation to give them the opportunities to be the best they can be.”
After the Governor’s remarks, 2015 Chair of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Joe Witt presented Stephen Romine with the 2015 Volunteer of the Year Award. Romine, an attorney with LeClairRyan, worked tirelessly with the Chamber’s municipal affairs team this year in Richmond during the General Assembly and throughout the year helping to shape pro-business public policy.
Mr. Witt then concluded his 2015 term with these remarks: “It has been a privilege to serve as the chair over this past year.” He added, “This year, the Chamber has had significant influence in the legislative agenda in the state of Virginia on issues like transportation, Medicaid, taxation and workers’ compensation. The Chamber’s team works on behalf of the members of the Chamber representing the issues and ideas that are important to all of us here. Your Chamber does have influence and connections.”
Mr. Witt then passed the ceremonial gavel to 2016 Chair Shepelle Watkins-White, formally installing the new officers and regional board, as well as division boards. Watkins-White concluded the luncheon, thanking the Chamber’s leadership and staff.
A highlight of the 2015 Annual Meeting was the announcement of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce 4-Star Accreditation by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce thanks our Annual Meeting sponsors:
Presenting: Old Point National Bank
Host: Virginia Beach Convention Center
Speaker Sponsor: Bon Secours Virginia Health System
Media: Cox Communications, Sinclair Communications
Silver: BB&T, Hunton & Williams, LLP
Transportation: The Honorable Kenny Alexander, State Senator
Audio/Visual: Hit Play Management
Décor: Premier Events
Also, thank you to USO of Hampton Roads and Central Virginia for Wounded Warrior support.