20. Bob Sherman on what boards should expect from the new Biden administration

February 15, 2021

Bob Sherman has served as the United States Ambassador to Portugal, is a shareholder at the law firm of Greenberg Traurig and serves on the board of Novo Banco, a US PE-backed bank based in Portugal. In this episode he shares his journey in the Obama campaign and then the Biden campaign and through that lens shares what he believes boards and companies should expect from the new Biden administration and how they may want to take advantage of the opportunities that will be available. We also talk about what governance structure for a US embassy looks like and the importance of getting it right.

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Links

Bob Sherman Bio

Business Roundtable Statement on Stakeholder Capitalism

Quotes

On What Presidential Elections are about

“When it comes to presidential races, it’s really only about two things; stay the course or change. And if it’s about change, the issue is, what kind of change?”

“The thing that I learned in that campaign starting in Iowa was the presidential campaigns are about the future. It’s not what you’ve done in the past. It’s what you’re going to do for people.”

Who Joe Biden is?

“Joe Biden embodied these values: personal integrity, a commitment to national values and a desire to restore international relations.”

“He believes in his bones that people need to be respected and that they should have a sense of dignity themselves.  This concept again of dignity and the notion, to use his words, of dealing people back into the process is going to be highly important.”

“Joe Biden, by DNA and by disposition, is a different person than Barack Obama. He’s a moderate, first and foremost. He’s a creature of the Senate.”

I believe that what we’re going to see is a new social contract. I think you’re going to see is a lot of focus on the business community and corporate America being a partner in the solutions to the problems that we face.

Governance of a US Mission

When I was preparing to be Ambassador to Portugal, Bill McRaven the four-star navy admiral, who just a couple of years previously was the architect of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, said something that really stayed with me: “I am a four-star navy admiral.” he said, “But you have to remember, when I’m addressing you, you have a fifth star; so you’re welcome to call me Admiral, and you’re welcome to call me Bill, but I call you sir, and not the other way around.” “This is important. Chain of command is important to us. Military authority always reports to civilian authority. That’s the way our government is set up, and that’s the way we operate.”

Big Ideas/Thoughts

Based on what Joe Biden has said and based on who he is, we have clues on what boards and corporations should expect in the new administration. The notion of stakeholder capitalism, beyond just shareholder fiduciary duty, is likely to be accelerated. Diversity of boards reflecting the diversity of the population will get a big push; equitable pay and executive compensation is also likely to get emphasis; and science being basis for decision making in addressing  existential threats in areas like climate change, energy, and healthcare.

My wife and I went to Philadelphia together [during the first Obama campaign] and we were in South Philly at the time.  Again, the cornerstone of the Obama campaign was engaging voters one by one. That’s what we did, and we were walking through neighborhoods, knocking on doors, engaging with voters, when we saw three African American women sitting on a stoop, and we thought, “Aha., these are probably good people to engage and likely voters for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton given the fact that they were African-American.

We went up to them to talk about why they should be voting for Senator Obama, and one of the women looked at us and said, “You know, my son has a learning disability. I can’t get services for him; He’s failing in school. He feels isolated, so now he’s joining gangs because he feels like he’s a part of something. I’m worried every day that I’m going to get a call that my son is dead. You tell me what Barack Obama is going to do for somebody like me.”

That was an eye-opening experience because you realize that within the country, there are so many people that don’t feel there’s any connection they have to the federal government, and there are people that feel that the American dream is out of reach.

What Joe Biden has made clear during the campaign is that he believes in predictability, that government should be predictable for the business community. So, I think we’re going to see a much more consistent approach to the issues than maybe we have seen in the past. That decisions should be science based so, I think that science is going to play a big role in how decisions get made in a Biden administration. And perhaps most importantly, there is his commitment to human dignity. He believes in his bones, that people need to be respected and that they should have a sense of dignity themselves.

I think you’re going to also see, not incidentally, non-politicized decision making. He said he wants to be a President for all the people and will work as hard for the people that voted against him as for those that did. This concept again of dignity and the notion, to use his words, of “dealing people back into the process” is going to be highly important.

The concept that boards owe fiduciary duty to all stakeholders is gaining momentum, and has been for a while, and if what you’re saying comes to pass, it will be something to really keep an eye on because leadership from the top could accelerate the momentum that’s been building and it’ll be interesting to see where it leads us.

Transcript

Joe: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to On Boards:  a deep look at driving business success. Hi, I’m Joe Ayoub and I’m here with my cohost, Raza Shaikh. On Boards is about boards of directors and advisors and all aspects of governance. Twice a month, this is the place to learn about one of the most critically important aspects of any company or organization, its board of directors or advisors.

Raza: [00:00:25] Joe and I speak with a wide range of guests and talk about what makes great boards great or makes a board unsuccessful, what it takes to be a valuable member, and how to make your board one of the most valuable assets of your company.

Joe: [00:00:42] Our guest today is Bob Sherman, the former United States ambassador to Portugal, a shareholder at the law firm of Greenberg Traurig, and most important, a former partner of mine. As ambassador Bob focused heavily on bilateral economic development and international [00:01:00] security issues, including cybersecurity, refugees, narcoterrorism, and NATO. Among his very high-profile cases, he served as co-lead counsel for hundreds of victims in the Boston Archdiocese clergy abuse scandal.

Raza: [00:01:17] Bob also serves as a board member of a major international bank, Novo Banco, whose majority shareholder is an American private equity firm. In this role, Bob serves as chair of the compliance committee, focusing on EU bank regulatory requirements and anti-money laundering rules.

Joe: [00:01:37] In addition to all that, Bob was one of the earliest supporters of Barack Obama beginning in 2007 and has had a close relationship with Joe Biden in his Presidential campaign.  While we don’t normally discuss politics on our podcast, today our conversation will touch upon politics to the extent that changing policies, the result of a new President and his administration, [00:02:00] will have an impact on the business community.

Welcome Bob. It’s terrific to have you as a guest on On Boards.

Bob: [00:02:07] Joe, Raza, it’s my pleasure to be here. Thank you.

Joe: [00:02:11] Before we talk about what business leaders and their boards might anticipate in a Biden-Harris administration, it would be great if you would tell us a little bit about how you became involved with President Obama and what you learned from working on that campaign.

 Bob: [00:02:26] Joe,I had previously been involved in some local races like governor’s races, and what I had learned in the course of that from somebody that served as a mentor to me, was that when it comes to presidential races, it’s really only about two things; stay the course or change. And if it’s about change, the issue is, what kind of change?

When the 2008 campaign was getting underway, I asked myself, what’s this race going to be [00:03:00] about? And for me, it was about change.  The country was weary of our time in war; we were facing an economic crisis, and there was a feeling, at least in my mind,  that the country was looking for something different. And of the two major candidates on the Democratic side, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama was truly the face of change, as I saw it. He wasn’t traditional, he was something different, he promised a new approach, and that’s what got me involved in his campaign.

I was invited to meet him in November of 2006. My wife and I had lunch with him back in the days when he would just have lunch by himself. We sat actually at the UMass Club in Boston, and we talked about everything except politics. We talked about children and where children get their values. We talked about policy and [00:04:00] how we should think about our role in the world. And we talked about, of course, the Red Sox versus the White Sox, he being a White Sox fan. I was trying to show him the error of his ways with that.      .

My wife and I walked away from that meeting, convinced that this was the most impressive person that we had met. About a month later, I got a call. I was asked whether I would be willing to come to Chicago in January for a meeting.  I think that’s the first test of how committed you are–if you’re willing to go to Chicago in January. I went out there, there were 30 people in the room at the time from around the country– only two of us from Massachusetts–and this was the planning meeting for the campaign, and that’s what got us launched.

Joe: [00:04:51] Wow. I remember we were still partners then, and I remember that you were very involved in the campaign to the extent that [00:05:00] you were actually in Iowa for that first caucus in 2008. Tell us a little bit about what you learned there, and then I know there’s a subsequent moment that really had a pretty big impact on you.

Bob: [00:05:13] Yeah. We got to remember that we were really an insurgency campaign at the time. Senator Clinton, whom I had an enormous respect for, was the prohibitive favorite at the time, and so it wasn’t as though we were expected by anyone to win. So it was truly a small band of brothers and sisters that traveled to Iowa.

And for me, it was an incredible experience because Iowa is a caucus, not a primary, and it means engaging voters one on one and you go door to door. It’s interesting because the caucus was January 3rd. I was out there from about mid-December to that day. It’s freezing cold. Oftentimes, you’re [00:06:00] bundled up. It gets dark early, you’ve got a ski mask over your face.  You ring a doorbell, and the response is, “Come on in. I want to talk to you about the Senator’s position on gun control or economics or whatever.” And what I really learned was that Iowans take their role as the first in the nation’s caucus or primary, they take that role extremely seriously. They are very interested because they know they set the tone for the rest of the campaign, and being able to talk to voters one on one, you learn a tremendous amount about what’s on people’s minds.

 The thing that I learned in that campaign starting in Iowa was the presidential campaigns are about the future. It’s not what you’ve done in the past. It’s what you’re going to do for people.  The George Bush, Sr-Bill Clinton campaign is a perfect example. George Bush coming off with that [00:07:00] great victory in the Gulf War had the high popularity rating, but at the end of the day, people voted for Clinton based on the War Room slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid.” They were interested not in rewarding the past, but in looking towards the future, and that’s an important thing to keep in mind.

Joe: [00:07:19] I know that a couple of months after Iowa in March, you found yourself  in Philadelphia and had a real moment of insight. Can you tell us about that?

Bob: [00:07:28] Exactly. My wife and I went to Philadelphia together and we were in South Philly at the time.  Again, the cornerstone of the Obama campaign was engaging voters one by one. That’s what we did, and we were walking through neighborhoods, knocking on doors, engaging with voters, and we saw three African-American women sitting on a stoop, and we thought, “Aha, these are probably good [00:08:00] people to engage and likely voters for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton given the fact that they were African-American.

 We went up to them to talk about why they should be voting for Senator Obama, and one of the women looked at us and said, “You know, my son has a learning disability. I can’t get services for him. He’s failing in school. He feels isolated, so now he’s joining gangs because he feels like he’s a part of something. I’m worried every day that I’m going to get a call that my son is dead. You tell me what Barack Obama is going to do for somebody like me.”

 That was an eye opening experience because you realize that within the country, there are so many people that don’t feel there’s any connection they have to the federal government, and there are people that feel that the American dream is out of [00:09:00] reach.

It’s also a reminder that an election is not just about the elites and the politically involved. It’s trying to help people who really don’t need a handout, but they do need a hand up, like resources for a child with learning disabilities.

Joe: [00:09:18] Tip O’Neill famously said, all politics are local, and I would add to that, all politics are personal. It’s what are you going to do for me, my family, my son, and you’re right, I think very true. It is easy to lose sight of that, but those who have run and won probably have all, in some regard, learned that same lesson. You’ve got to connect with the people on the ground and understand what it is that they want and what it is that is going to make it work for them. So, looking at the Biden campaign, how did you become in Joe Biden’s run for President.

Bob: [00:09:58] Well, really two [00:10:00] ways. I served as ambassador, so therefore, I worked in the Obama-Biden administration. I got to know Joe Biden when he was running for vice-president on the ticket and, got to know him even better when he was serving as vice-president, both on a personal level, but also on a professional level.

 When this election rolled around, I asked myself the same question that I had asked in 2007, and that was, what was this election going to be about? And again, for me, and I recognize I could be wrong about these calculations, but it’s the question to ask, and I thought that what this election was really going to be about for a lot of people, was restoring personal integrity to the White House, restoring national values, and restoring international relations– getting back to a sense of [00:11:00] normal. It really wasn’t about this notion of wholesale change, fresh faces and the like, but it was a bridge election, getting back to really what the values of the country were, and should be.

 When I looked at the candidates in the Democratic primary, I believed that Joe Biden embodied those values; personal integrity, a commitment to national values and a desire to restore international relations.

Joe: [00:11:29] And, as it turns out you are right, which has been an interesting thing to watch for the last year and a half.

Bob: [00:11:37] Joe, I didn’t look so smart around the time of the Iowa caucuses or New Hampshire primary.  I got a lot smarter after South Carolina! There was a time there when I thought that this was headed in a very different direction than I thought.

Joe: [00:11:52] Yeah, well, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, so how you looked  after Iowa doesn’t really matter now.

So, here we are in December [00:12:00] as we record this and one of the things we wanted to talk to you about is, what you believe boards of directors should be thinking about as they anticipate the new administration, what policies might be expected, and how might companies want to plan for what is to come?

Bob: [00:12:19] I think in some ways it’s a fool’s errand to be able to say you have a crystal ball and you’re gonna know what’s going to happen in a Biden administration.  We don’t really know definitively, but there are clues and we can look at those clues from what he has said, who he is, and then translate that into what boards of directors should anticipate.

What Joe Biden has made clear during the campaign is that he believes in predictability, that government should be predictable for the business community and [00:13:00] for all of society. So, I think we’re going to see a much more consistent approach to the issues than maybe we have seen in the past. That decisions should be science based., and again, I’m not saying anything other than what he has said before. So, I think that science is going to play a big role in how decisions get made in a Biden administration. And perhaps most importantly, is his commitment to human dignity. He believes that in his bones, that people need to be respected and that they should have a sense of dignity themselves. Again, that’s going to play out.

I think you’re going to also see, not incidentally, nonpolitical or non-politicized, I should say, decision making. He said he wants to be a President for all the people and will work as hard for the [00:14:00] people that voted against him as for those that did. But this concept again of dignity and the notion, to use his words, of “dealing people back into the process” is going to be highly important.

Joe: [00:14:15] So, let’s unpack that a little bit and let’s talk about a few areas we’ve touched upon earlier or touched upon when we talked about this podcast, one is this concept of corporate responsibility beyond shareholders, which maybe will grow in momentum, and another is about board composition, a topic that Raza and I have talked about a lot this year. Could you weigh in on those things? Because those are things that are topics that all boards are really going to be interested in and, it’d be good to think about what’s to come.

Bob: [00:14:48] Sure.  So, taking my cues from some of the statements that candidate Biden has made, he’s a big believer that the responsibility of [00:15:00] corporate boards is not simply to create value for the shareholders. He is a proponent of stakeholder capitalism -that companies have a responsibility beyond his shareholders, to their employees, to their customers, to their suppliers and to their communities at large. And I believe that what we’re going to see is a new social contract. It’s not just a contract between the people and their government, but a corporate social compact where boards should have a role to play on the big issues that our country face– issues like climate change, an existential threat to the very existence of our country. And there’s no doubt about it, in a Biden administration, climate and climate policy is going to be prioritized, and it’s reflected in his cabinet choice of a [00:16:00] climate czar in the person of former Secretary of State and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

Likewise, on the issue of racial justice, we can’t tackle these big issues without the business community working hand in glove on that, so I think that what you’re going to see is a lot of focus on the business community and corporate America being a partner in the solutions to the problems that we face.

  Joe: [00:16:32] That’s well put, the concept that boards owe fiduciary duty to all stakeholders is gaining momentum, and has been for a while, and I think if what you’re saying comes to pass, it will be something to really keep an eye on because leadership from the top could accelerate that momentum and it’ll be interesting to see where it leads us.

What about board composition?

Bob: [00:16:59] I think that’s just [00:17:00] another area that’s really important. You’ve seen Joe Biden not only talk about that, but lead by example in terms of his own cabinet and senior administration officials, whereby there are many more women, people of color, people that represent underrepresented communities, which is an important word or phrase these days, and I think you’re going to see that reflected in terms of what’s going to be expected from boards. We’ve already see it. We’ve seen recently that there is a proposal by NASDAQ that has to do with board composition and diversity on boards with the threat of delisting companies that don’t meet certain criteria.

Raza: [00:17:52] Bob, you told us that it would be a mistake to think of the incoming administration as Obama 3, and in fact it should be [00:18:00] thought of as Biden 1. What does that mean? And what does it specifically mean to businesses and boards in your view

Bob: [00:18:08] I think that people tend to lump Joe Biden with Barack Obama, and they should recognize that Joe Biden worked for Barack Obama. As vice president, you don’t make the decisions. You don’t make the policies. You have a voice in the policies and the decisions that are made, and in Joe Biden’s case, he had the first word and he had the last word, but he didn’t make the decision himself. Those were Barack Obama’s decisions.

Now, he’s top dog. He’s the one that makes the decisions, and Kamala Harris as vice president will be expected to play the same role, having a voice in those decisions. But Joe Biden, again,  by DNA and by disposition, is a different [00:19:00] person than Barack Obama. He’s a moderate, first and foremost. He’s a creature of the Senate.

 Regardless of how that election comes about in Georgia, the Senate is going to be razor thin in either direction, and there’s a group of moderates that exist in the Senate on both sides. We’ve seen some indications of that from people like Joe Manchin, the Democrat from West Virginia, Mitt Romney, the Republican from Utah, et cetera, et cetera, so there’s going to be a core group that he may be able to deal with to truly get, not radical change, maybe not the changes that some on the far left of his party are looking for, but to really move the needle on some of the important issues that the country faces.

So, I think that’s number one, he’s a moderate. Number two, he feels things viscerally, as I’ve indicated. He’s a people person. He’s gone [00:20:00] through tragedies in his life and he understands suffering that people go through.

I used the word “dignity” before, this is something that he saw in his own father when his father lost his job and had to come home and tell the children that they needed to move. They couldn’t keep the house, but it wasn’t just about a paycheck, it was human dignity. So, I think you’re going to see that play out in a strong way.

Raza: [00:20:28] Bob, you’re right. He is a different person with different life experiences, and human dignity would be very important for him. How does that translate into policy and what should we expect there?

Bob: [00:20:42] This goes back to the notion of stakeholder capitalism, and I think what boards should be thinking about–not just in terms of the issue of board composition and diversity on the boards, but also issues like: fair wages, are people being [00:21:00] paid in an equitable manner; dignified retirement, are they going to be able to retire with the least enough money to lead a dignified life and not have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from, or will they be able to afford the drugs they need to sustain their life as senior citizens; the notion of executive pay equity in all of that, are executives being paid proportionally to what they’re producing and proportionally to what their workers are earning.

So, we mentioned some of the issues of diversity on boards, the notion of workers participating in boards. I don’t think we’re going to see the radical kind of proposals like you see in some places, both in Congress and in some States, but I do think that there’s a notion that there needs to be more voices at the table reflecting those kinds of [00:22:00] concerns. And I think there’s going to be pressure put on boards of directors, let’s say, when it comes to executive pay again, as to determine what should go into the issue of executive pay. It’s got to be broader than just the issue of value for shareholders. What is the executive doing to lead change? To lead a direction towards stakeholder capitalism as an example. And to be rewarded for what’s done on a much broader scale. So, boards need to be thinking about all of those issues in my view.

Raza: [00:22:38] Bob, as a country, how do you take advantage of a President that wants to bring innovation in healthcare, energy, climate tech, preparing for the next pandemic?

Bob: [00:22:50] So, I think that’s a great question because it’s another hallmark of what Joe Biden has said in the campaign– funding innovation, and [00:23:00] recognizing that America’s place in the world is really determined by how innovative we can be. Innovation is what’s got us to where we are today, and if we’re going to compete with a rising China, for instance, than we’ve got to focus on innovation. So, if you take the healthcare arena as an example, NIH funding, funding of the National Institutes of Health has been lowered over the last several years. There’s going to be a recommitment to healthcare innovation. There’s been talk about establishing the equivalent of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the innovative arm of the Defense Department–the creators of the internet– into the healthcare arena– HARPA, so the Healthcare Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Joe: [00:23:55] Let me ask you a little bit about your board experience. I know that you sit on the board of Novo [00:24:00] Banco, a leading bank in Portugal. Can you talk about how that came about, the composition of the board and your role on that board?

Bob: [00:24:08] When I served as the United States Ambassador, I think people think of the job in many ways as a social job; you go to a lot of cocktail parties and rub shoulders with other diplomats, but your title is really Chief of Mission, and it’s the mission of the United States government in a particular country. That can include the intelligence agencies, can include the military and law enforcement agencies, but it also includes economic diplomacy or economic statecraft, as the phrase has been coined.

What that means, in large part, is what you’re trying to do is to increase investment in the United States by foreign companies. You’re trying to make sure that US companies and US [00:25:00] businesses also have access to foreign markets. In my case, when I was there, one of the most prominent banks in Portugal failed and it failed during the economic crisis that gripped Europe in 2012/20 13. It failed right after the meltdown of the Greek economy. There was fear that a contagion was starting in Europe that would undermine the economic recovery that had been going on in the United States since the depth of our own crisis in 2008. And one of the things that we worked on as an embassy was trying to stabilize this failed bank, to try to take the lessons we learned in the United States and help the Portuguese implement those lessons.

Now, it’s not easy, you don’t just walk [00:26:00] in to the Minister of Finance and say, “We’re the United States. Let us tell you what we’re going to do or what you’re going to do.” You can’t bigfoot the problem, but you try to be invited to the conversation and provide that kind of insight, which is what happened. The Portuguese government split that bank into a good bank/bad bank, like we do here in the United States.  The bad debt was put into the bad bank. The good bank, which included the depositors, was stabilized, and eventually, the bank was put up for sale.

Well, the bidders on that bank were the Germans, the French, the Chinese, the Spanish and the Americans. I was the United States ambassador. My role at that point was to promote the interests of an American investor, and in this case, it turned out to be Lone Star Capital, a private equity firm in New York, and [00:27:00] I worked very hard and very closely with the management team of Lone Star to position them to compete for the bank.

They were eventually successful in winning the auction. They had done a tremendous amount of due diligence. They knew what they were getting. They made no promises beyond the fact that they were into it for the long-term. They weren’t interested – and the Europeans have this image of us, and particularly, US private equity firms–that all we want to do is take over a company and break it up for parts.But they were into it for the  long term, and that was important to the Portuguese.

The good bank was called Novo Banco. Lonestar became the 75% shareholder; the government, the Resolution Fund in Portugal, since it was being bought out of, essentially a resolution process, was the 25% shareholder. And eight months after I left [00:28:00] as ambassador in 2017 and returned to the United States, I got a call asking me whether I would be willing to serve on the board of the bank and chair the compliance committee. Compliance was my background. I certainly understood the Portuguese culture, and the feeling was that I could not only add value to the board on the issue of compliance, but I could be a bridge between the Americans and the Portuguese, explaining Portuguese culture to the Americans and American culture to the Portuguese.

Raza: [00:28:37] Bob, when you and I first met, it was at an NACD event, and you told a story about Bill McRaven, a four-star Admiral who served as commander of the United States Special Operations Command. Can you talk a little bit about what happened?

Bob: [00:28:54] That was an experience, Raza, that is seared in my mind [00:29:00] because it tells you a lot about governance, not in a corporate sense, but in a government and military sense. In training to become ambassador, and there’s a significant period of preparation doing consultations, one of the things that we had to learn was, what do you do if your embassy is under attack? You can’t just, dial 911 and ask for the Navy SEALs to show up.

So, what was arranged was a group of ambassadors that were preparing to go to posts to fly to MacDill Air Force Base, which is the headquarters of US Special Operations Command, It’s in Tampa and we got on a special forces plane. There were eight of us. Some were like me, new ambassadors that had never served; some had served previously and were going to a new post, but you go through the [00:30:00] training no matter whether you’re an experienced or a new ambassador. You get a real sense of the plane you’re on because the first class cabin on this plane is the mobile operating theater to be able to operate on special forces soldiers that are wounded in action on their way out of a kinetic activity or other engagement.

Anyway, we landed at MacDill Air Force Base, and at the bottom of the ramp is Bill McRaven, the four-star navy admiral, who just a couple of years previously was the architect of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and a larger than life figure in so many ways.  And as we get off the plane, I’m probably halfway back in the group of eight, he’s at the bottom of the ramp, he extends his hand, introduces himself to the first person off the plane and says, “Hi, I’m [00:31:00] Bill McRaven.” That person says, “Nice to meet you, sir,” and we continue, the eight of us get off the plane. And when we all deplaned, he gathered us around and he said, “We’ve got to get something straight.” He’s not being the jerk about this– he’s being a teacher– and he says, “I am a four-star navy admiral.” But you have to remember, when I’m addressing you, you have a fifth star, so you’re welcome to call me Admiral, and you’re welcome to call me Bill, but I call you sir, and not the other way around. This is important. Chain of command is important to us. Military authority always reports to civilian authority. That’s the way our government is set up, and that’s the way we operate. So, if US Special Forces were to do a training exercise in your jurisdiction, a support exercise, or [00:32:00] even a black op, you know about it in advance and you have to approve it”.

Raza: [00:32:05] Well, what a story. I’ve always told this story to many of my friends internationally where governance can be sometimes backwards, but it just highlights the broader importance of governance and who reports to w hom, in my mind. My impression, Bob, is that an ambassador, in many ways and respects, is like a CEO of a company with many divisions. Is that accurate? How did you see that?

 Bob: [00:32:34] That’s the way I approached my role as an ambassador. Again, your title is ambassador, but your operational title, as I think I’ve mentioned, is Chief of Mission and when, for instance, all the ambassadors, once a year, gather in Washington to talk about the various issues that we face across the world,  the conference is known as The Chief of Mission Conference. [00:33:00] What it means is that all the interests of the United States government as represented by agencies, and I mentioned some before: the state department, department of agriculture, defense department, law enforcement agencies, they do all report to the United States ambassador.

You’re responsible for supervising their activities. You’re responsible for setting the agenda. You’re responsible for the execution of the mission, and getting people to operate in unison. I had a motto in the embassy, which was  “One Team, One Fight. There are turf battles, and there are rivalries between the agencies. We’ve heard about them, but they exist. Like any organization, you have that. The task is to try to find ways to make sure that you’re working as a coherent unit and collaborating in order to best effect the mission of the [00:34:00] United States government and the President of the United States.

Raza: [00:34:03] Thank you, Bob. .

Joe: [00:34:04] Bob, it’s been great speaking with you. Thanks for joining us today. I hope you and your family will continue to be well and stay safe.

Bob: [00:34:11] Joe and Raza, thank you so much for having me, and let’s all hope that 2021 is a good year and certainly a lot better than 2020 has been.

Joe: [00:34:23] I think we’re all hoping for that, Bob. And thank you all for listening today to On Boards with our special guest, Bob Sherman.  Please stay safe and take care of yourselves, your families and your communities as best you can.

Raza, you take care. I hope you and your family continue to be well and stay safe.

Raza: [00:34:43] Yes, Joe, we’re all staying safe. Thank you., and I hope you and your family are as well.

Joe: [00:34:48] Thanks. Take care.

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