Armstrong Williams is an influential conservative and African-American political commentator who owns Howard Stirk Holdings, a media company that was recently named among BlackEnterprise.com's Top 100 black businesses.
An entrepreneur and third-generation Republican, Armstrong Williams was formerly vice president for governmental and international affairs at the public relations firm B&C Associations.
He also served as confidential assistant to the chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under Clarence Thomas, presidential appointee to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, legislative assistant to the U.S. Representative Carroll Campbell and legislative aide and advisor to U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond.
In 2004, Williams was appointed by President George W. Bush to the President’s Commission on White House Fellows.
In 2008, Williams began hosting a conservative talk show on XM Satellite Radio.
1. You and your company recently made Black Enterprise's Top 100 list of African-American businesses in the nation. How did you achieve such success so quickly?
Armstrong Williams: Our Howard Stirk Holding, LLC debut in BE 100 is a testimony to our loyal and diverse creative-genius executives and a loving South Carolina farming family that paved the foundation.
My farming experience and spiritual Christian upbringing have informed my ideas about entrepreneurship. Business and spiritual success are the same. You must plant seeds in good soil, tend them when they are saplings, and watch them grow into a flourishing garden that will produce 30, 60, 100 or more than what was planted. While we are not the creator, we can use the principles of creation, as laid down in the Bible, to produce runaway success for ourselves, our progeny, and our legacy.
It is an honor to be on such a list for business and enterprise. We strive to be a great American company driven by value-based principles. We did not achieve success quickly because we understood that nothing in life comes easy; however, as noted in the Bible, we stayed humble, worked hard and persevered no matter what, which ultimately bared fruits of success. As a result of our continued hard work and moral striving, we have had decades of spiritual and financial success in the real estate, hospitality, and broadcast media ownership business.
2. You’re a major TV owner in several important cities. How is the internet revolution — over the top (OTT), such as Netflix and streaming devices like Roku — affecting your business?
AW: Technology is affecting all areas of human endeavor, and businesses are not exempt. We, in the broadcast television industry, must embrace, adapt, and engage digital formats, platforms, and content. We cannot afford to do business as usual if we expect to continue to compete in a digital world where news consumptions have drastically changed. We can learn invaluable lessons from the newspaper industry, which for all intents and purposes is completely irrelevant, so to avoid being opposed to change, we have quickly learned to adapt and avoid the same death trap.
3. Blacks have done really well with political empowerment, but no so well with economic empowerment. Why, in your opinion?
AW: I believe that African-Americans have achieved much in this society. Also, I think that achievement and progress is a journey and not a destination. African-Americans have made great strides in virtually every aspect of human endeavor. As it relates to economic empowerment, I would push back on the notion that African Americans haven’t done well, economically. If you study the African American experience in the United States in its totality from slavery to today, you will find a group that now has five billionaires on the Forbes list and a significant amount of homeowners and entrepreneurs in comparison to just 50 years ago. While there is still progress that needs to be made, in totality when you quantify the success, one cannot deny the fantastic progress overall.
4. You started your career in public relations helping people like Oprah Winfrey. If you had to give PR advice to President Trump, what would you tell him?
AW: Stick to the issues. The president has an economy that many previous presidents would have given everything to have. When you analyze the Democratic Party and their continuous leftward trajectory, data indicates that not only Republicans are opposed to their current trajectory, but members of their own party do not support such extreme notions of socialism either. So the president merely has to make a forceful appeal and comparison of the benefits under his tenure and remind people what the country has gained and what’s at stake if Democrats take over, which are high taxes on the working and middle class and a government that dictates everything, which is antithetical to the American way of life. Again, the data is entirely on his side; he just has to stick to what’s important and distinguish himself from the likes of AOC, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren who are all now the face of the Democratic Party.
5. Polls show Blacks still overwhelming back Democrats. What can President Trump do to win over black voters in 2020?
AW: He needs to talk more about criminal justice reform. That’s a big deal to many African Americans, particularly black men. He needs to also talk more about expanding entrepreneurship opportunities for African Americans and also focus on increasing black homeownership, which declined significantly during the last recessions and as a result wiped out a significant amount of black wealth. Black voters want opportunities to get better jobs and have good schools for their kids, and if the president can focus policies that address those issues, he could see a small increase in his support with African Americans, particularly African American men. Whether you are black, white, Latino, or Asian, jobs, and then the economy, is of utmost importance. He should also show how his agenda has affected people of color.
He also needs to make it clear that he’s inclusive and right now, a vast majority of African Americans don’t believe that because of his rhetoric, and he has to recognize that. At the end of the day, he is his own worst enemy, but he’s also his own best friend — either way, it is ultimately up to him to determine how people see him.
6. Who is the most influential person in your life today?
AW: My beloved hero is my mother, Thelma Howard Williams, and mentor, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
7. It’s summer time. What’s on your reading list?
AW: "Many Lives, Many Masters" by Brian Weiss, "If This Is a Man" by Primo Levi, and "The Theory of Moral Sentiments" by Adam Smith.
Mr. Williams is Manager/Sole Owner of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the year. Listen to Mr. Williams on Sirius XM126 Urban View nightly 6:00-8:00 p.m. EST. Follow him on Twitter: @arightside.
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