'A sense of pride swell up inside my chest' Congresswoman Clarke
For United States Congress-woman Yvette Clarke, the opportunity to travel to Jamaica with United States President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One was the result of a lot of perseverance and leveraging all her contacts.
In an exclusive interview at The Gleaner's North Street offices yesterday, Clarke disclosed some specific details of the in-flight conversation with Obama, as well as some of the issues that were to be tackled during the visit.
So with some three hours alone with the leader of the free world, what do you talk about? Topics ranged from the president's quip that he would love to see the world ruled entirely by women for two days to the role she played in expediting Jamaica's current deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Clarke revealed that on exiting the plane, she felt "a sense of pride swell up inside [her] chest. It was enormous and a unique feeling".
The congresswoman said she was not just coming home on a regular visit but representing her people.
"This trip is very significant for the Caribbean region and certainly for the constituency that I represent. This opens up new lens through which the United States views the region, particularly the English-speaking Caribbean and small-island states," Clarke said.
She continued: "We have often heard that the Caribbean islands feel neglected and overlooked by the United States government, but this signals a new day and - certainly on my end and in Congress - this helps in our ability to focus policy towards the region by having had the visit of a sitting president."
The daughter of retired Jamaica-born New York council woman Dr Una Clarke disclosed that during the flight from Washington D.C., she and President Obama discussed regional issues.
"We spoke about the region and the work that Jamaica has done to meet the benchmarks of the IMF agreement; and how pleased he was in this respect. He again expressed his pleasure with seeing Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller's work in navigating what has been very austere Budget measures. He's excited about recalibrating the relationship between the United States and the Caribbean region and Jamaica, in particular," Clarke said.
This is also a working trip for Clarke, who said she would be leveraging the president's visit.
"It holds a lot of sway with the body that I'm a member of," Clarke explained.
She noted that the trip would elevate the profile of the type of work that she had been doing in seeking partnerships with the region around homeland security and looking at ways in which they could get the US private sector to partner with the local private sector to create opportunities for employment.
Born to Jamaican parents, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke has always held the island close to her heart. On Wednesday, when United States President Barack Obama stepped out of Air Force One, she was right behind him beaming with pride, ready to introduce him to her 'homeland'.