Diversity, goals discussed during conversation with new chair of Aiken Chamber
The Rev. Paul Bush spoke about his goals for Aiken, diversity and inclusiveness at the Aiken Chamber of Commerce’s first Caffeinated Conversations meeting of 2019 on Tuesday morning.
Bush was recently appointed the 2019 Aiken Chamber of Commerce chair. He is the first African-American to hold the position in the chamber’s 101-year history.
“It’s long overdue,” Chamber of Commerce President and CEO J. David Jameson said as he introduced Bush. “But it’s happened, and we’ve got the right person in the right job.”
At the Caffeinated Conversation, an event which will be held every Tuesday morning in February, Bush told community leaders, businesses and friends there was a balance between emphasizing his historic appointment as chair versus his merit and achievements as an individual which awarded him the position.
“I’m looking forward for us to get beyond the day that we ever have to say the first African-American to do whatever,” Bush said. “I would not be insulted by this position – of having it – because I’m black. I’m here because I’m qualified. I’m intelligent. I have a right to be here.”
However, Bush acknowledged his appointment does have historical significance.
“To me and my people, then it represents more,” Bush said. “And that’s why, in this position, I have to be in it with integrity, with pride, because somebody’s son and daughter is looking at me.”
Bush, who is from Aiken, was appointed on Jan. 1. He previously served as a chamber ambassador and on the chamber’s board of directors and executive committee. He has 22 years of experience as a pastor and is the president of Concerned Ministers Fellowship in Aiken.
Bush discussed his goals for Aiken in his new position. He would like to see a more united community, increased access to resources in rural schools and increased youth involvement. Concerns about bringing young workers to Aiken was also briefly discussed.
When asked about increasing diversity and inclusivity at the local level, especially within businesses, Bush said “now more than ever is the time” for such efforts to commence.
“I think we’re all ready for a change,” Bush said. “I think we’re all ready to learn from each other, from our culture, from our background, from our businesses, to understand where each other is coming from.”
Bush said not dealing with an issue “won’t make it go away,” and he thinks by increasing discussions and accepting differences, progress can be made on that front.
“I believe we solve it one person at a time,” Bush said.