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(NNPA)—Kay Coles James, the newest president of the conservative Heritage Foundation and the first African American woman to lead the organization, said that she plans to set an example for engaging with people of different political stripes to have a positive impact in the Black community and America.

“I’ve seen the rhetoric heighten [since President Donald Trump took office] on all sides,” said James, 68. “And, when you’re a conservative, Black Republican, you know what the rhetoric is like on the ‘Left’ and, trust me, it’s not good.”

James added that we all have to bear responsibility to get beyond partisan differences and political debate that devolve into name-calling and character assassination.

“If I can turn that just a little bit, I would declare a success,” James said.

James who describes herself as a “happy warrior,” said big challenges come with the job, but as the first African American woman to lead the more than 40 year-old organization, James is proud to celebrate Black achievement.

“It’s a fine line of acknowledging and taking a minute to stop and celebrate, not only what this means for me, but also for our community,” said James. “When African Americans are being recognized as leaders, no matter where they are on the political spectrum, I’m glad to see it from the both the ‘Left’ and the ‘Right.’”

James recalled Obama’s first election when James said she and others set aside politics and policy to celebrate what that meant for America.

James said that she celebrated the accomplishments of Barack Obama and admired his Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett, and that she’s been encouraged to see that people are also celebrating what it means for her to be an African American woman leading the premiere, conservative public policy think tank.

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