Christine “Christy” Cox is a senior advisor to David H. Wilkins, who served as U.S. ambassador to Canada from 2005 to 2009. She was the ambassador’s chief of staff at the American embassy in Ottawa, as well as during his previous role as the Speaker of the House in the South Carolina Legislature. They now work at the law firm of Nelson Mullins, where they represent businesses on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border as part of the firm’s public policy and international law practice group.
What do you actually do in your job? I am responsible for all the public relations, media, speeches, and marketing work both for Ambassador Wilkins and for our Canadian clients as needed. One key way I keep us in touch with our Canadian friends is through our weekly newsletter which is designed both to highlight important and relevant news of the week’s activities in Washington as well as a more entertaining look at how Ambassador Wilkins has been making news.
What is the hardest thing about your job? Not enough hours in the day! Oh, and remembering all the different time zones when you’re setting up various bilateral conference calls and events.
What do you most enjoy about it? It is wonderful to be involved in the workings of the Canada-US relationship and all our issues without the stress that comes with actually working in the Embassy and having to be very mindful of every word spoken because of their potential impact on diplomatic relations.
Where were you born and raised? I don’t like to admit this because I have long ago claimed the South as my birthright, but I am originally from Long Island, New York. In a former life I was a TV reporter who took a job in Columbia, South Carolina, and fell in love with a U.S. Marine. I still love the Marine and the South has long been home, but my TV career is ancient history. I miss New York bagels and pizza – a lot.
What did you study? I graduated with a BA in English/communications, with a concentration in political science. I feel blessed that my degree reflects the career path I have always been on.
What was your first job and what path led you to your work today? Depends on what you mean by “first job.” I sold the New York Daily News – hitting my bike each morning and delivering the paper when I was 12. I had a summer job working at a farm stand – that experience taught me that I should never, ever be in charge of the cash register – math and I have NEVER been BFF. My most meaningful job was at a small cable station on Long Island after I graduated college. The station didn’t have a job available so I just badgered them until they let me work for “free” – which I did for about six months until an associate producer job opened up and I was hired. It was the single most important work experience of my life: I learned everything from editing to shooting to writing and producing – and finally on-air reporting. I was surrounded by young, enthusiastic people all climbing the career ladder who bolstered and supported one another. Some of my very best friends remain those I made at that tiny station more than two decades ago.
What is the best advice you received in the course of your career? Three things stick out in my mind.
The first came from a woman I worked with when I accepted a job as communications director for the South Carolina House of Representatives. Speaker David Wilkins had just created the position and it was essentially mine to mold. As I was writing the speaker’s speeches and all communications and press releases for the House, my colleague, whom I’ll call Carol, advised me to make sure whatever I do – “you be in every meeting.” This way, I could quickly learn how the speaker thought and what issues were really important – and understand the back story to every event happening in the House. It proved to be incredibly good advice – advice I now routinely pass on when I am asked.
The second came from a public relations strategist who held a very high-profile post in the George W. Bush White House. I was fretting about a particular issue and how best to handle the press. When he saw me visibly stressing out he said, “Christy, there’s something to be said about making it look easy.” Again, very sage advice.
Lastly, I take great encouragement from the advice my boss Ambassador Wilkins has frequently given me throughout the years, “Don’t screw it up.” Enough said.
Looking back, what are you most proud of? I am most proud of my family – my husband and two children. We have only gotten stronger and better as a family through the years and I give all the credit to our growing and continuous faith in God.
When and how do you start your day? My day always begins with a cup of Earl Grey tea and prayer and Bible study time.
Blogs or websites you find interesting or useful: Drudge Report, Nationalnewswatch.com, Real Clear Politics, Heritage Foundation.
Where are you most likely to be found when you’re not working? Running or reading a book off of my very groovy iPad.
If you had an alternative career, what would it be? I always wanted to be a Fly Girl from the In Living Color television show.
Favorite sports team? Nope. Don’t much care…is that wrong?
Who is your hero or heroine? I have a few of them: My mom because she is the most giving, principled and loving individual I have ever known. She was a masterful mom at giving her three girls both “roots and wings.” My husband is also my hero. He works harder than anyone I know at both our marriage and making sure our family is protected and ready in any event. He never stops seeking ways to make us all stronger and better.
Drink of choice? Water with lemon. But when I’m celebrating, kir royales!
What is one worthwhile book you read in the past year? So glad you asked! Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. I can’t STOP thinking about this book, what it says about man’s will to survive, our ability to commit unspeakable crimes against one another, and ultimately God’s redeeming love. An amazing, wonderful, true-life story.
What is one thing you’d like to learn more about? God.
What is your favorite place in Canada and your favorite place in the United States? That is tricky. I love so many places in Canada but something about the can-do, down-to-earth human spirit in Calgary is just so compelling. In the United States, Charleston, South Carolina.
What is one thing you’d like to tell Canadians about the United States, and/or one thing you’d tell Americans about Canada? I’d really love for Canadians to know and understand the true South. The South is diametrically different than the ignorant, racist stereotypes the media loves to paint – especially every four years during the presidential campaigns. I was raised in New York and went to school near Philadelphia and for me the South is so much kinder, better, and often times more efficiently governed, and has far fewer problems with class and race than does the north. George Will recently wrote a column about states that have changed and he said South Carolina may just be the state that “has changed most for the better.” And he’s dead on. Southerners are so much more thoughtful, educated and compassionate than how reporters too often want to couch their stories about us.
I tell any American who will listen that Canada is NOT exactly like us. The country is, in fact, a lot different than the U.S. and those differences should be applauded. Americans just don’t realize fully enough Canada’s sacrifice in Afghanistan, and don’t fully appreciate how vital our energy partnership is – and how we must do a far better job of looking north to solutions for meeting our energy security needs. We have no better friend and partner.
Also Get to Know… Chris Sands, Birgit Matthiesen, Scotty Greenwood, Luiza Ch. Savage
You can now follow me on Twitter under luizachsavage