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About the Speaker

Mr. Rick C. Wade

Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach at the U.S Chamber of Commerce

A seasoned leader with deep experience in both the public and private sectors, Rick C. Wade is Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business organization. His wealth of knowledge enables him to give a megaphone to the voice of business across the country and share the positive impacts of the free enterprise system. As a member of the senior executive team, Wade develops and implements programs and initiatives to help the Chamber create new business relationships and partnerships across diverse audiences. He also provides counsel on policy issues and leads special projects. He developed the Chamber’s first-of-its kind Equality of Opportunity Initiative aimed to advance sustainable public policy and business solutions to help close America’s race-based opportunity gaps in education, employment,  entrepreneurship, criminal justice, health, and wealth.

Before joining the Chamber, Wade was principal of The Wade Group, a strategic communications, and

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global business development firm. A former Senior Adviser to President Barack Obama, he also served as a top aide and Deputy Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Ambassador China Gary Locke. While at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Wade served as a liaison to The White House, businesses, trade associations, civic organizations, and local governments. He was a member of the White House task forces on Puerto Rico, Small Business Contracting, Automobile Recovery, Military Families, and Historically Black Colleges & Universities. He also served on the Interagency Business Council and former Vice President Joe Biden’s Task Force on Middle-Class America. Wade worked closely with the Economic Development Administration to foster regional economic development in distressed areas, the National Telecommunications, and Information Administration on expanding broadband to rural and urban America, the Minority Business Development Agency to create jobs through the growth of minority-owned businesses, and the Census Bureau on executing the 2010 decennial census. In addition, Wade was instrumental in expanding opportunities for U.S. companies to sell their products in the global market. He led business trade missions and represented the U.S. at international forums including the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum, and the Conference on the Caribbean and Central America. He served as Special Envoy to the Caribbean and helped to oversee private sector initiatives in Haiti following the 2010 devastating earthquake.

Wade is a former executive at Hoffman-La Roche pharmaceutical company and Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina. A former candidate for S.C. Secretary of State and the U.S. Senate, he was a member of the Cabinet of S.C. Governor Jim Hodges, serving as state director of the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Services.  He was Chief of Staff for Lt. Governor Nick Theodore and worked as an Analyst for the Ways & Means Committee of the S.C. House of Representatives. While working as an Executive Assistant to the University of South Carolina President, he helped establish the Office of Governmental Affairs and Community  Relations. He developed a historic Five Point Plan to advance diversity across the university, build community partnerships, and enhance the institution’s impact across the state’s diverse communities.

Throughout his life, Wade has served the community and those left behind. After his mother passed in 2013 of medical complications resulting from a stroke, he became a voice for stroke prevention through the National Stroke Association.


A former Board Chairman of the Columbia Urban League, he has also served in leadership roles with the Sisters of Charity Foundation, Boys and Girls Clubs, USC Educational Opportunity Center, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and Francis Burns United Methodist Church. Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Wade led Blue Cross Blue Shield’s efforts to relocate nearly 100 evacuees from the New Orleans area to Columbia. S.C., providing them with housing, food, and other much needed services. He currently serves on the boards of USA Track and Field, National Forest Foundation, Wilberforce University, Folks Center for International Business, SkystheLimit, and Urban Alliance.


Wade grew up in the rural textile town of Lancaster, S.C. along with his 5 siblings. His mother was a nurse assistant, and his father was a forklift operator. He attended a segregated elementary school and an integrated middle school. At an early age, he learned the importance of faith, education, hard work, and perseverance -- cornerstones upon which he has built his life and career. Wade received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of South Carolina and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University, where he was also a Kennedy Fellow.  He has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from Benedict College and South Carolina State University and has studied at both the Interdenominational Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA. and Wesley Theological Center in Washington, D.C. Wade has received numerous awards for exemplary leadership and public service.

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