By Marivir R. Montebon
New York-based Loida Nicolas Lewis puts her time and passion into the November elections in the US, campaigning for the reelection of President Obama. At no other time than now has it ever been so exciting and crucial for Americans to choose their next president.
Ms. Lewis believes that the president deserves a second term to continue what he has began and to see better results of his socio-economic programs. When we met in her office one Thursday afternoon in early October, she said she was going to take on a debate in Philadelphia, on behalf of the Democratic Party.
With the tight race between the incumbent and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Ms. Lewis said they are doing their best to convince the American people that the president is still the best choice they could ever have.
Ms. Lewis is a Filipino businesswoman, philanthropist, leader, author, public speaker, and lawyer; she is also the first Asian American to pass the American Bar in 1994 without having to study law in the US. In 1969, she worked for the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council in New York, the Manhattan Legal Services from 1970-73, and in 1979-90, as a lawyer for the Immigration and Naturalization Services.
Ms. Lewis succeeded as chairperson and CEO of the TLC Beatrice International Holdings, a food and beverage company, in February 1994, a year after her husband Reginald Lewis passed away. She was named the top US woman business executive in September 1995 by The National Foundation for Women Business Owners and Working Woman magazine.
When chancing upon Ms. Lewis in a social event in Manhattan, conversations are usually brisk but substantive. She is a woman who’s always in a hurry schedule, saying hi and hello would normally be followed with what’s her recent involvement on issues, and then a quick goodbye.
It was a pleasant opportunity to have sat down with her for a great conversation and a phone interview as she tackled the most crucial question faced by Americans today.
Excerpts of the interview:
1. What keeps you busy these days?
I am actively campaigning for the reelection of Pres. Obama. The two presidential candidates we have now could have not been more different and really is a black and white matter.
First, Pres. Obama is for the inclusion of everyone in the US, while Gov. Romney is subtracting the 47% of the people. One case in point is the minors who have been denied their green cards. In June, Obama issued an executive order giving children of undocumented immigrants to continue their education, get jobs, and take on the path to citizenship. Romney, on the other hand, said he will deport undocumented aliens.
The second big difference between the two is that Pres. Obama takes care of the people through his health program, the Obamacare. For the first time, the Obamacare provides preventive medical care for people.
2. How can the Obamacare take effect when it costs so much and the economy is deteriorating and could not afford it?
To finance the Obamacare, Pres. Obama will fix the tax code. He will maintain the current taxes imposed on the one million dollar earners, taking into account the Warren Buffett proposal, while reduce the taxes imposed on those earning less.
Romney will cut the taxes across the board, including he millionaires who are already privileged enough.
Obama also reduced government bureaucracy. He shrunk the federal government down to its lowest level.
It is important to note that the Catholic Church has denounced the Romney-Ryan budget because, among other reasons, it will cut Pell Grants for students and funding for the Public Broadcasting Company.
Their philosophies are just too entirely different.
3. If Pres. Obama did so well in his first term to merit a second, how do you explain prices of oil going up and unemployment is still up as well?
Unemployment was reduced since the Pres. Obama got into office. In June 2009, unemployment rate was about 9%. In September this year, it has gone down to 7.8% and is continue to go down.
When he came into office, it was like America was on a big fire that has to be immediately stopped. This explains why there was the Stimulus package as a stop gap measure to help banks, infrastructure, and small businesses that needed cash.
What he did is seeing fruition right now. The stock market is up and housing sector is up too. Foreclosures are down and there is about 800,000 permits to build issued.
Next year, there will be a boom in America.
4. Do you think the US will continue to be the world’s strongest and wealthiest country in the next few years?
Yes, the US will still be the strongest and wealthiest country in the world. It will take a long time for China to take over. For one, the information technology will deter China from being so totalitarian and controlling. It will lose grip of its people. Like in the Middle East, China spring will happen.
5. You mentioned information technology as a sort of tool for democracy. What can you say about the Philippines’ own Cybercrime Prevention Law? Are you for or against it?
That is a terrible law. It stiffles any kind of criticism by the people. Freedom of speech is the fulcrom of democracy. I don’t understand why Pres. Aquino signed that into law. It has to be repealed.
(Editor’s Note: Ms. Lewis is a great supporter of the arts. In the main photo, she just acquired ‘Lotus’ by Cebuana artist Fe Madrid Pepito who, together with her husband, Celso Pepito, ran an art exhibit at the Philippine Consulate in November 2012.)