Remarks as Prepared for Secretary Brouillette
Greeting for the American Association of Blacks in Energy National Conference
Thursday, August 20, 2020
Thank you for that introduction.
Let me express my gratitude to Paula Glover and her team for inviting me to speak today and join your conversation.
And let me also convey my appreciation to the Association of Blacks in Energy for the good you do throughout each year.
I think we all can agree that 2020 has been a tough year for America and for the world.
We’ve experienced the rise and spread of COVID-19 at every level.
Prior to its arrival, our economy was prospering and African Americans and other minority citizens were benefiting in historic ways, with wages rising and unemployment rates plummeting to the lowest levels of our lifetime.
And, a big reason was President Trump’s success in removing regulations that destroyed jobs and inhibited business development, while creating opportunity zones to steer investment to economically depressed areas, including minority neighborhoods.
The President’s focus on deregulation also unleashed innovation, making America an energy-independent country, a global energy powerhouse, and a prolific creator of energy-related jobs.
With millions of jobs coming back over the past two months, we have high hopes that progress will resume, but let’s be clear:
This pandemic set us back in critical ways.
The civil unrest of recent weeks is a further blow, especially to minority-owned businesses and their employees in the hardest-hit areas.
It made many people ponder America’s journey on the road to racial progress.
It made me think about my own life as a young boy in Louisiana, at a time near the long-awaited end of the Jim Crow era.
Those were the days when Martin Luther King, Jr. marched on Washington and the late John Lewis – who passed away last month – put his life on the line by crossing a bridge in Alabama.
It also reminded me of the time I spent in the U.S. military.
The color that most servicemen and women see is more in the uniform they wear than the skin beneath it.
As an Army vet, I like to remind my chief of staff, who’s a Navy man, that my uniform really does look better – and that it’s not even close.
But truth be told, most servicemen and women could also see beyond the uniform, to what Dr. King had called the content of people’s character.
This is what America at its best strives to be.
It’s about supporting opportunity for all.
It’s about making educational opportunity a reality for everyone in this country.
It’s about mentoring children and firing up their interest in educational paths that can change their lives.
It’s about actively recruiting qualified, talented African Americans and other minorities for the exciting jobs of the future.
This is what our employees across the Department of Energy absolutely want – and it’s what our Department’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity – or E-D – is clearly about.
It’s what ED’s Equity in Energy initiative is about as well.
In every DOE program and across the energy realm, Equity in Energy seeks to expand the inclusion and participation of people in underserved communities, including the African American community.
Equity in Energy has five pillars: Workforce Development, Supplier Diversity, Technical Assistance, STEM Enhancement, and Energy Affordability.
Each pillar is centered on the dual mission of igniting interest and providing access.
Today, I am delighted to announce that Equity in Energy is launching its full complement of initiatives.
Our ED office will unveil more than 20 Ambassadors consisting of industry leaders and community stakeholders and several internal DOE champions.
In addition to Equity in Energy, I am proud to report that since January of this year, ED has had a new Energy Workforce Division.
Located within the Office of Minority Programs, this division is charged with creating the energy workforce of tomorrow.
The Energy Workforce Division has identified several key groups that can benefit from obtaining work in the energy sector.
They include veterans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, women, formerly incarcerated individuals, and other minority communities.
As I speak, the Energy Workforce Division is constructing interactive workforce development resource maps and toolkits that will enable access to programs across America that support career training in energy.
ED recently awarded 10 grants totaling approximately $3.9 million for the Minority Education, Workforce, and Training Program.
The 10 awards had five focus areas, including workforce development, technical assistance, capacity building, STEM education, and training.
This program will serve over 60 of the Qualified Opportunity Zones set up by President Trump to transform some of America’s most impoverished communities into greenhouses of job and business growth.
And, I would encourage those of you who seek to grow your business and make a real difference in people’s lives and their communities, to look at these zones.
As we look to the future, I would encourage us all to think about the next generation of Americans, including minority students.
We must reach our young people with the message that STEM careers in particular can be among the most exciting, fulfilling, rewarding, and lucrative adventures in the world.
STEM jobs, and especially those in the energy fields, can literally change the world.
With energy jobs, you can land a rover on Mars, study the smallest particles of the universe, and create tomorrow’s clean energy technology.
It’s a moral imperative that we make every effort to expose African American and other minority students to the world of STEM.
But besides being a moral imperative, it is also a practical necessity, because America’s STEM needs are enormous, and we need an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to fill them.
For the sake of our energy security, our economic security, and our national security, we must draw upon all of America’s available talent and ability, across every part of society.
And as a STEM-driven agency, our Department is committed to doing just that.
That’s why at ED, we’ve provided grant money to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other institutions to encourage minorities embarking on STEM education and STEM careers.
It’s why at our Office of Fossil Energy, we have the Mickey Leland Fellowship, a 10-week summer internship program to improve STEM opportunities for gifted minority as well as female students.
And it is why at our Sandia National Lab, we have a summer intern program for middle and high school students by the Black Leadership Committee.
Let me close by thanking AABE again for the good you’ve done and the good I am confident you will do in the coming years.
Thank you for your unwavering commitment to a better, brighter future.