Walking down the entrance hall of the Governor’s Mansion, I lifted my hand to shake that of the striking figure who had just walked in.
“Ambassador Haley, it is such a privilege to meet you.”
“Please, call me Nikki.”
I was immediately struck by the Southern grace and easy manner emanating from this dynamic woman; there was no steely edge acquired from achieving such great success in a man’s world, nor the affected air of a practiced politician. As our team made small talk with her and her husband, Michael, before sitting down for the interview, I told Nikki that her mother’s former clothing boutique in Lexington, Exotica International, was one of my first clients when I started selling advertising for CMM fresh out of college a little more than 10 years ago.
We sat down in the study for a more formal chat about her perspective on current events as well as her experiences growing up in South Carolina and her current activities. Born into an immigrant family of a different race and culture from everyone else in the small town of Bamberg where she was raised, Nikki Haley is a walking icon of how much is possible in our country.
When asked about the difficult moments of being such a distinct minority in her community as a child, she replied, “I think it’s important to realize that while growing up may have been challenging, that town and community grew to accept us and to want to know us. And this is the same state that elected me governor in the same country that allowed me to defend America. So, it really is an American Dream when you think about the fact that truly anyone can be anything if they are willing to work hard for it. While growing up could certainly be tough, it was such a blessing in so many ways.”
The successful path Nikki Haley has forged is an inspiring one to women and minorities on both sides of the political aisle and regardless of policy opinions — she was the youngest governor in the country, and she was the first female Indian American governor as well as the second Indian American governor to serve in America. She was also the first female governor of South Carolina, and, as the 29th United States ambassador to the United Nations, the first Indian American to serve in a Presidential Cabinet.
Amid all of her national and international success, her charitable efforts bring her back to where she came from; education is her passion, especially among the children of rural South Carolina. The Original Six Foundation, so named for her immediate family of six growing up, strives to bridge the gap in education born by those without the resources of a larger city.
Regardless of party or creed, we hope you enjoy learning more about the perspective of this South Carolina trailblazer in our interview on page 64.