The reputation of Rhode Island’s senior U.S. Senator, Jack Reed, as being among the most respected, knowledgeable, and bi-partisan figures working in our nation’s Capital today was on full display recently as a group of nearly 100 Rhode Island business professionals visited Washington, DC. This year’s Rhode Island Business Leaders Day, held at the U.S. Capitol on September 14th, marked the 18th year Senator Reed has hosted the event for the RI business community.
The day’s itinerary included an in-depth forum on business, government, and international affairs, as well as a few observations on the 2016 presidential race, that included presentations from numerous U.S. Senators, Cabinet Secretaries, and even an appearance by Vice President Joe Biden.
The RI Food Dealers Association is to be commended for again serving as the prime sponsor of the day, and the Rhode Island Society of CPAs, (RISCPA) was pleased to help coordinate the recruitment of over 45 business professionals who traveled with us to the forum. Other attendees included representatives of: the state’s Commerce Corporation; individual Chambers of Commerce and the RI Hospitality Association; the local chapter of the U.S. Small Business Association; the Manufacturers’ Association; RI Bar Association; RI Hospital Association; and members of alliances involved in the regional defense industry. RISCPA President Bob Mancini, who led the Society’s delegation, was pleased by the day’s itinerary. “Once again Senator Reed and his staff provided members of the RI business community with an informative and highly engaging day in our nation’s Capital,” Mancini says. “It is a unique and very special opportunity to have Cabinet Secretaries, other distinguished members of the U.S. Senate and even the Vice President make a presentation directly to Rhode Island business leaders, and we are deeply grateful to Senator Reed for assembling this special day for us.”
The forum began with opening remarks on a wide range of issues from Senator Reed and was followed by presentations by 10 major speakers. Greetings and brief remarks were also presented by the other members of the state’s delegation, including Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and Representatives David Ciccilline and James Langevin. Senator Reed, recognized as among the most seasoned voices in the U.S. Senate on military issues, discussed how the budget process known as sequestration is hurting military spending and preparedness, and he called for the process to be lifted. The substantial defense industry sector within RI and southeastern New England has been hurt by the sequestration process, he said, and emphasized it needs to be reformed. He touched briefly on the protracted war in Syria, and said among the many tragedies of the conflict has been the creation of millions of refugees who now represent the largest displacement of people since the end of World War II, and are producing an enormous humanitarian challenge for the rest of the Middle East region, Europe, and the U.S.
Other highlights of presentations from the day include:
Senate icon and Vietnam War hero Arizona Senator John McCain showed his sense of humor as he began his remarks with a good natured ribbing to Senator Reed about their legendary Army-Navy rivalry. The Republican Senator then cited Senator Reed’s ability to reach across the aisle to attain bi-partisan solutions to difficult problems as a hallmark of his Senate tenure. Senator McCain also underscored that whoever wins the presidential election race will face enormous challenges in military and foreign affairs ranging from U.S. military activity in the Syrian War, to combatting the ISIS threat, to containing Russian aggression. Senator McCain told the group that Senator Reed, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, brings deeply seasoned and invaluable insights to the workings of the influential committee.
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who was elected to the Senate the same year as Senator Reed, talked about his reputation for doing his homework on complex military and intelligence issues, and determination to work in a bi-partisan fashion. She also mentioned their many joint legislative efforts to benefit New England, as well as her work on the Select Committee on Intelligence which underwent a major overhaul after the September 11 attacks.
Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz, who hails from Fall River, MA, brought another New England connection to the group as he discussed the wide-ranging duties of the U.S. Department of Energy. Moniz, who has served in both government and academia, including as the Director and founder of the Energy Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was a key advisor guiding the U.S. in the recently completed Iran Nuclear Weapons deal. Secretary Moniz told the group the complex agreement between the U.S. and Iran represents an important milestone for halting nuclear weapon expansion in the Middle East.
The group was notably appreciative of the appearance of the Vice President, who, despite having weathered the tragic cancer death of his son Beau, earlier this year, has kept up his energetic schedule of speeches and appearances around the country and the world. The Vice President talked of the progress brought by the Obama Administration’s policies as recent economic reports have shown an increase in job creation, wages, and new company formations across many business sectors. Biden said skeptics who try to declare the nation’s best days are behind us are not reflecting the reality and, citing the recent upbeat economic reports, passionately stated, “this nation’s engine is humming, folks!” There was a poignant tone to his presentation as he mentioned his days in public life are winding down with the approaching conclusion of the Obama Administration, but Biden urged the group to always believe, as he does, in America, its spirit of ingenuity and its greatness.
A late day reception followed the speakers in the Hart Senate Office building before the group departed to travel back home to RI.