- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 24, 2012


The Jamaican ambassador to the U.S., Audrey Marks, announced this year that she would step down to return to the business world - a decision that reminded me of what our priorities as free people ought to be.

Here is the first woman to achieve one of the most important and most coveted diplomatic positions in her country. She chose to leave her position not because anything was wrong with it or unsatisfying, but because she wanted to return to her other successful life as an entrepreneur.

She is a well-respected mother and a woman of immense integrity, character, keen intellect, class and grace - all qualities of a natural diplomat. But I had to ask: Why stop doing something that you’re so good at?

It reminded me of what we conservatives believe at a foundational level: While public service is noble, it is equally noble to pursue success in the private sector because everyone benefits from good products, good service and increased productivity. It reminded me that the diplomacy is the servant of government, and that government is the servant of free people.

She’s got the right priorities and always has. The respect and admiration among her colleagues in the diplomatic and entrepreneurial communities are unprecedented.

Ms. Marks became Jamaica’s 10th ambassador to the U.S. in May 2010. Her background is entirely in business, as she holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business administration - the former from the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica, the latter from Florida’s Nova University. She went on to found Paymaster Limited, a multitransaction company. The company has spawned others and served millions of people around the world.

Ms. Marks has led five other financially successful companies in different industries, including real estate, manufacturing, finance and travel.

She also has served on numerous boards of advisers, including the Jamaican National Health Fund and her Jamaican alma mater. She was the first female president of the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica, and has been recognized with numerous awards for her business career.

This is the type of person who should inspire our young people.

What is especially unique about her is that she is an ambassador from a Third World country to a developed country. Who has more to teach, and who has more to learn from the other?

I think our country could stand to learn a little bit from this business-inspiring leader, and learn to love business, and - at best - tolerate government.

When I look at the way our government under the current administration treats our businesses, I can only wonder what we can teach Ms. Marks, other than what not to do.

I am disgusted by the way the media has tried throughout the current election cycle to portray business people as out of touch, robotic and strange while glorifying in the rebelliousness of rappers, adult novels like “Fifty Shades of Grey” and materialistic celebrities.

You are what you love, Aristotle taught us, and if these are the things we love, then we are as low as they are.

What we should be praising instead is the virtue and industry of our pure and virtuous entrepreneurs. No one has ever had real freedom without economic freedom. Any good the government will ever do will at least be financed by private industry. All empowerment comes from the free market - the government can never empower you; it can only stop disempowering you. The solution to all the ills for which the left deploys big government will be solved only by private enterprise and daring entrepreneurship.

I’m reminded also that government is a necessary evil, not a good. Ms. Marks is getting back to real life. Like Cincinnatus returning to his farm, or George Washington returning to Mount Vernon, all our political leaders shouldn’t be in politics for a career or a fancy business card, but to make a contribution and get back to real life. It’s a paradox that two of our finest and most principled U.S. senators - Republicans Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma - will be retiring at the end of their term: We lose them because they are principled. Meanwhile, Harry Reid will continue sucking up a federal paycheck.

I asked Ms. Marks what advice she would give to young entrepreneurs. She said that “an entrepreneur follows their vision to implementation, and when they fall down, they get back up.”

That message of persistence is one that all children should learn, and learn early. We hear so often in this age of entitlement that people are too proud to take a certain job, or too picky to do what they have to do. This is an aristocratic ethic, although most of us do not have the privilege of being aristocrats.

But anyone can be an entrepreneur.

That is one of the beauties of the free market - its equality, which comes from its blindness. It is no respecter of people, no more than the grim reaper is. We can’t all be rock stars, we can’t all be rappers, but we can all learn the material and spiritual value of hard work. Yet despite its accessibility to all, and despite its importance, a distressingly small number of our young people are learning it.

Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 169 from 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. Become a fan on Facebook at facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/arightside.

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