In a public service and business career that spans more than four decades, David Beasley, a former governor of the US state of South Carolina, has worked across political, religious and ethnic lines to champion economic development, education, interfaith cooperation and humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable – not just within the United States, but across the globe.
For the past 10 years, Governor Beasley has worked with influential leaders and on-the-ground programme managers in more than 100 countries on projects to foster peace, reconciliation and economic progress. In Ethiopia, for example, he worked alongside Tony Hall, former U.S. Ambassador to FAO, IFAD and WFP, on a partnership with the Project Mercy charity to increase food access for students and internally displaced people.
Governor Beasley has also helped strengthen cooperation and communication among the business, political and non-governmental sectors in regions of long-standing political, ethnic and religious tension, including South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen. Last year, for example, he and his team led an international conference in Kosovo that brought hundreds of business and political leaders from the Balkans together for five days of dialogue.
As a governor, Beasley cast a vision of reform for the state of South Carolina. Governor Beasley was the first chief executive in South Carolina history to lead a Cabinet form of government, essentially building a new government with a revamped system of operation and management. Relying on teamwork and partnerships, the Beasley team’s creative approach included overhauling the state’s criminal justice system, the economy, the welfare system and the educational system, among others. His inaugural South Carolina cabinet flourished in an atmosphere of team spirit and cooperation.
One of Governor Beasley’s greatest accomplishments came in redesigning the state’s Commerce Department. When he became governor, traditional pillars of the economy – textiles, farming and military spending – were declining. Through setting measurable goals and focusing on specific growth industries, he transformed the economy into a healthy, diverse, and robust market based on steel, automotive, chemical, plastics, and pharmaceuticals goods and services. Within two years, South Carolina consistently had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, and the state increased its annual private sector capital investments from US$2 billion to over US$6 billion – fueled in large part by international investment from companies like BMW, Honda, Bridgestone and Firestone.
In addition to public policy, Governor Beasley provided a steady hand in moments of crisis. His leadership before, during and after hurricanes enabled the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people along South Carolina’s coast, including high season tourist areas, schools, healthcare facilities, businesses and families. His leadership ensured access to food, healthcare and shelter for the most vulnerable households during and immediately after the natural disasters.
Governor Beasley was also elected by his peers to be chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Prior to becoming Governor, Beasley served as Speaker Pro Tempore of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Democrat Majority Leader of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Chairman of the South Carolina House Education Committee, and Chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on Education. Governor Beasley also served as Chairman of the U.S. Health and Human Services Agency’s National Rural Health Committee for 10 years.
As a political figure, David Beasley has been routinely called upon to communicate effectively and transparently to the public. As Governor and chairman of multiple government committees, Beasley honed his diplomatic skills and has continued to put them to use after leaving public office. Just a few months after the attacks on September 11, 2001, Beasley led an international economic conference in Tunisia that united American and Western experts on trade policy, foreign direct investment and information technology with Tunisian officials and business leaders. Additionally, over the past 15 years, Governor Beasley has led conferences and missions in some of the most conflict-affected areas of the world, including Kosovo, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.
Governor Beasley believes strongly that personal dialogue and relationships are critical to conflict resolution, and he has brought political and religious opponents together to forge peace and better relations. He travels to as many as 30 countries each year, bringing leaders of different nations and party affiliations together to encourage better dialogue and promote peace. Through his travels, Governor Beasley has developed close personal relationships with leaders in many nations, including heads of state and members of various national parliaments – a network that he will use to expand WFP’s support base.
Governor Beasley enjoys strong relationships with members of the U.S. Congressional appropriations committees, as well as close ties to the current U.S. Administration.
Governor Beasley was the first Governor in South Carolina to call for the removal of the Confederate Flag from the State Capitol, a stand that played a significant role in his unsuccessful re-election bid but earned him the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. At many points during his term, Governor Beasley led efforts to calm serious racial tensions while encouraging reconciliation and peace, and he established a Race Relations Commission to make progress on this issue. Governor Beasley brought women and members of minority groups into his cabinet and senior positions. Under his administration, South Carolina had a higher percentage of women in top leadership than any other state in the nation.
Following his service as governor, Beasley was invited as a fellow at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Governor Beasley received his B.A. and J.D. from the University of South Carolina. He resides in South Carolina with the former Mary Wood Payne and is the father of four children.