Geek of the Week
Charlene LakeCharlene Lake is the Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer for AT&T, a position she has held for nearly three decades. In this role, Lake is responsible for leading AT&T’s philanthropic and volunteerism endeavors, third-party advocacy program, and public affairs functional support, as well as coordinating signature initiatives that connect social needs with business objectives. Lake began her career at Southwestern Bell Telephone in 1986 in Topeka, Kansas, and served in management roles in financial communications, media relations, and employee communications in Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. She assumed leadership over SBC’s corporate advertising and sports marketing department during the mid-1990s, and managed the organizations through the mergers of Pacific Bell, Southern New England Telephone and Ameritech. In 2003, Lake began developing a public affairs discipline within the SBC External Affairs department, and in 2007 launched the development of AT&T’s centralized corporate citizenship and sustainability function. In addition to her current role, Lake serves on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the Public Affairs Council, a leading international association designed to advance the field of public affairs, and on the Board of Directors of America’s Promise Alliance, an organization committed to preparing young people for college, work and life. She also serves on the Council of Advisors of the Institute for Economic Empowerment for Women, which among other projects, partnered with the U.S. Department of State to teach women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and Rwanda about free enterprise and market power. The National Urban League recently conferred Lake its 2015 Women of Power Award for her outstanding contributions to women and underserved communities.
People’s Hero of the Week
Hon. Juan PichardoHon. Juan Pichardo was sworn in as the State Senator representing the people of Providence, Rhode Island’s Senate District 2 on January 7, 2003. As the first Dominican American and Latino elected to the Rhode Island Senate, he embraces his dual responsibilities of being both a strong leader and positive force for the communities he represents. His lasting commitment to his constituents has been recognized by numerous community groups and organizations. His record of leadership in the Rhode Island Senate is evidenced by his bipartisan election to the position of Senate President Pro Tempore, a position never held by a Latino. Currently, he serves as Chairman of Housing and Municipal Government Committee. Since his historic election, Senator Pichardo has worked tirelessly for the people of the Elmwood, South Elmwood, Reservoir Triangle, and West End neighborhoods. He has used his position to lead and to be a strong voice on issues that improve the quality of life for all people. Among Senator Pichardo’s most central issues are increasing higher education outcomes, addressing health disparities, and promoting economic opportunity and income wealth creation for his constituents. He has dedicated his adult life to public services since emigrating at the age of nine in 1975 from the Dominican Republic. On July 16, at MMTC’s Access to Capital and Telecom Policy Conference, Senator Pichardo addressed the impact of the digital divide on underserved communities and the opportunities afforded by STEM education and access to broadband. We thank Senator Pichardo for joining us! A full video of the luncheon is available here.
Multicultural Entrepreneur of the Week
Rodney SampsonRodney Sampson is a social innovator, angel investor, published author, and consecrated bishop. Through his Episcopal affiliations with the Old Holy Catholic Church and International Bishops Conference, Sampson shapes innovative economic policy and opportunities. A serial entrepreneur, Sampson created Atlanta’s Opportunity Hub, which includes co-working spaces, incubators, accelerators, and networking events for aspiring and established entrepreneurs. Sampson’s Opportunity Ecosystem is the nation’s leading platform for minorities and underserved communities to master the investment ecosystem. In addition, Sampson co-founded the Legacy Opportunity Fund portfolio of companies, with investments in technology, energy, consumer products, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. On August 7-9, Sampson’s Opportunity Hub partnered with MMTC at the Ford Neighborhood Awards with Steve Harvey, connecting with communities at the grassroots level to discuss digital and tech entrepreneurship opportunities, as well as bridging the digital divide. Sampson is a 2015 inductee into MMTC’s Hall of Fame and delivered a galvanizing keynote address at the July Access to Capital Conference Awards Luncheon (full video available here). MMTC is proud to partner with Sampson and the Opportunity Hub to continue to provide unprecedented opportunities for underserved communities.
Digital Divider of the Week
Hostile Online DiscourseThe Digital Age and access to social media have brought with them boundless opportunities for communication across all walks of life, regardless of socio-economic rank or status. Unfortunately, the power of anonymity and fast-paced communications have turned the Internet into a breeding ground for discourse that can include vicious personal attacks on others. The intensity and proliferation of such posts have turned serious debates into soundbite-driven arguments at the policy level, and influenced people not to go online at all or even, in some cases of cyberbullying, to commit suicide. And it doesn’t end there. There are groups of people who post negative comments on memorial websites of teens who committed suicide, and who make fun of deceased people and their family members. While free speech is protected by the Constitution, harassment is not. Social media is a very valuable online tool that has sparked revolutions, but we must find a middle ground when it is turned into a weapon. MMTC has always been dedicated to remaining above this level of discourse, and engaging only in civil, fact-based advocacy that does not conflate issues with personal attacks on those with whom we may disagree. To this end, MMTC has adopted official Principles of Civil Discourse, which we will follow through heightened prescreening of media and social media content to ensure all communications remain dignified, respectful, and issue-focused. MMTC invites other organizations to adopt these principles as we stand in solidarity against vitriolic debate.