Every year the Bryce Harlow Foundation gives its Business–Government Relations Award to an individual who’s given their all to a career in professional advocacy—and this year, that person was NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.
Honorees: On Wednesday evening in Washington, D.C., the foundation held its 42nd Bryce Harlow Foundation Annual Awards reception and dinner. The night’s awardees were Timmons and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), the winner of the foundation’s other honor, the Bryce Harlow Award.
- Timmons was introduced by Dow Inc. Chairman and CEO (and NAM Board Chair) Jim Fitterling, who called the NAM leader “ethical down to his bones” and said, “Jay has a reputation of working honestly and earnestly with Democrats, Republicans and Independents, and he earned that reputation because fundamentally he’s committed to policy solutions that create a win–win, not only for both political parties, but also for American manufacturers and American workers.”
- Rep. Dingell also praised Timmons’ steadfast, post-partisan approach to manufacturing advocacy. “He has worked to make sure Democrats and Republicans are part of the discussion about manufacturing and understand how critical it is to this country. … To be honored in the same year as you, Jay, means more than you’ll ever know.”
- In his own remarks, Timmons lauded both Bryce Harlow Foundation President Barbara Faculjak’s “outstanding leadership” and Rep. Dingell’s “incredible example for [the next] generation.”
Pep talk: Also honored at the dinner were the 2022–2023 Bryce Harlow fellows, a group of 30 graduate students pursuing careers in advocacy through government relations or lobbying. Timmons spoke directly to them for most of his speech.
- “Over the course of your careers, you will face important decisions,” he said. “You’ll ask yourself questions like, ‘Where should I work?’ ‘What will I do next?’ ‘How much can I make?’ … I want to encourage you to ask another: ‘Why?’”
- “The question matters … because if you can answer honestly and feel yourself standing up a little straighter with a sense of purpose, then you’re in the right profession,” he said. “If your ‘why’ is right … then the ‘what,’ ‘where’ and ‘how much’ will take care of themselves.”
- Timmons went on to tell the fellows part of his own story: how he dropped out of college to move to D.C. and “join the Reagan Revolution”—against his parents’ wishes. But even then he was able to answer his own “why.”
The manufacturing “why”: For the NAM, the organizational “why” is “to advance the values of free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.”
- Timmons told the students that part of their jobs “as advocacy leaders” would be to defend democracy, now under attack in Russia’s war against Ukraine and elsewhere in the world. While not perfect, Timmons said, democracy has done more to improve people’s quality of life than any other system in history.
Your authentic self: “[T]here was always something or someone who told me to change course or that I wasn’t right for a job—including those voices that told me to pack it up when I was outed as a gay man at a time when that wasn’t exactly an asset for a career,” Timmons said. “If I’d listened, I wouldn’t be here.”
- Today Timmons is the president and CEO of the country’s largest manufacturing association and is happily married with three children.
- “So bring your authentic self to the table,” he concluded. “Soak in all the knowledge and wisdom you can from others. But ultimately, have confidence in your own inner voice, your own judgment and your own vision.”