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Washington DC – In full bloom

Updated: 3 days ago

This article was first published in The Business Influencer magazine in April 2024.

“Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November” – words that are well know to many of us in the UK in relation to Bonfire Night and the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament back in 1605. 

Fast forward 419 years to the present day and November 5th 2024 will certainly be a date to remember, as it is when the US will go to the polls to elect their next President, with the current options being a choice between the incumbent, Joe Biden, or his immediate predecessor, Donald Trump. 


While close to half of the globe’s population will be voting in elections during 2024, and there will undoubtedly be a fiercely contested general election in the UK in the second half of the year, there is no doubt that the eyes - and cameras - of the world will be firmly fixed on the US given the characters involved, America’s economic strength and its continuing position as the ‘global policeman’.


Conflicts taking place around the world, the general sense of rapid geopolitical change and the uncertainty that always comes in advance of a highly-charged election have generated many column inches of discussion around America’s future role in the world order, and not all of them positive.


While that might be understandable, and open discourse is one of the many benefits of living in a free society, when reflecting on the global economy, and the influence that flows from that, it feels prudent to quote a certain Warren Buffett: “Never bet against America.”


That is the case for our family business, which has long admired the American ‘get up and go’ business culture. We subsequently now have a wide range of interests and investments in the US, spread across sectors and from coast to coast, and continue actively to seek new opportunities in America.


In recent times our involvement in the US has also extended into the civic sphere, in particular through a relationship with the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University in DC.


This is one of the largest and most highly ranked schools specialising in international relations in the US, with an extremely diverse population of students and faculty members from all corners of the world. Our relationship with the University benefits our business by providing a fantastic way to develop a different network, stay current on international and geopolitical trends and obviously scout for future talent emerging from one of America’s leading such institutions.


A recent visit to Washington DC and the University during a series of East Coast meetings was particularly striking for the sense of energy and optimism that was on display throughout the city, which runs counter to the more negative commentary one picks up if only following State-side events through the media.  


Meetings at the University included a lunch with students drawn from a range of backgrounds and continents all studying various geo-economic and political subjects, while we also received briefings on geopolitical competition in the Arctic Circle and India’s evolution into an advanced economy by 2047. 

Far from feeling like a bastion of isolationism, these sessions very much made Washington feel like the centre of the world and somewhere that the development of ideas and the relentless pursuit of excellence were in full flow.


While George Washington University may be based in Foggy Bottom, it is fair to say that the wider city was in ‘full bloom’ during the visit. Hotels and restaurants across the capital were packed as visitors flocked to see the spectacular cherry blossoms that provide a stunningly beautiful backdrop to the city during springtime, in particular the various monuments that are located around the National Mall.


Even a brief stroll around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial between meetings reinforced that sense of optimism and the city as a global melting pot. Where else could you meet a Thai Buddhist monk now living in Ohio, a Korean performance artist dressed as a cheerleading wolf character and a musical student (think Lady of the Lake) pushing a mobile harp between the trees in order to play for unsuspecting visitors? 


Of course, the cherry trees themselves are also a representation of America’s global position, originally being a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo to the District of Columbia in 1912 in order to enhance the growing friendship between the US and Japan. Indeed, Japan might well be joining AUKUS, the Australia, UK and US security partnership announced in 2021.


America undoubtedly has its challenges and issues to deal with, and to say that the election campaign is likely to be contentious and controversial in the run up to November 5th might well be an understatement. 

The MLK monument in Washington DC
The MLK monument in Washington DC

With all that said, the country remains robust and an economic powerhouse, offering so much opportunity to so many who seek it there. 

There have been few more eloquent speakers in history than Martin Luther King, Jr., and his memorial in Washington maybe sums up the future for America as well as anything. 

Framed by the Japanese cherry blossom, the granite statue is called the ‘Stone of Hope’. It is named after a quote from the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in 1963, and it is that sense of hope – and optimism – that is very much alive and kicking in Washington DC today and will help the US to retain its position as a great place to do business in the future.

The original version of this article in The Business Influencer magazine can be seen here: Washington DC – In Full Bloom - The Business Influencer


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