Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley spoke in Dallas on Friday evening at an event sponsored by the World Affairs Council. Haley is also the former governor of South Carolina.
It was part of her tour for her new book, With All Due Respect.
Haley reflected on her early life, growing up in a small South Carolina town, as a child of the only Indian immigrant family in the town. She said it laid the foundation for her future career in politics.
“My mother would tell me it was my job to show them [the people in town] how we were similar. To this day, when I am faced with a challenge, I try to talk about what we have in common first.”
From an early age, Haley said she learned the value of a dollar when she became the bookkeeper for her mother’s business at age 12.
Then she pursued a career as an accountant before running for the South Carolina legislature.
“There were a lot of lawyers at the state house, and they needed a really good accountant,” she joked. She ran against and defeated a 30-year incumbent.
As the first female governor of South Carolina, Haley pursued an agenda to strengthen the economy of South Carolina. The state attracted several large manufacturers during her tenure and was dubbed “the beast of the southeast,” a title that Haley relished.
One of the most challenging times as governor was the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
Because the killer was an avowed racist who tied himself to the Confederate flag, Haley became convinced that the Confederate flag had to come down from the Capitol in Columbia. She related stories of painful symbols of racism in her own childhood experience with the Republican legislative caucus to help them understand.
“South Carolina showed the world what strength and grace look like in the face of tragedy,” Haley said proudly.
As governor of South Carolina, Haley gained national attention and during the 2016 Republican presidential primary, candidates sought her endorsement.
She didn’t endorse President Trump during the primary and ultimately backed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), but that did not stop him from recruiting her to serve in his administration.
At their first meeting in New York, Trump interviewed her for the Secretary of State position.
She declined, but later accepted the position as Ambassador to the United Nations under a few conditions: she wanted to be a member of the cabinet, the national security council, and an advisor who was “able to say what I think” to the president.
While U.N. Ambassador, Haley was known for her grit when faced with major issues.
Syria’s leader, Bashar Al-Asaad, used chemical weapons against his own people. Haley said that as she stood firm on behalf of the United States during that episode, she discovered that many countries “may resent us [the United States] but they want us to be the moral leader.”
Haley said she was also proud of the unanimous resolutions that were enacted to restrain North Korea during her time as U.N. Ambassador.
“We had to stop the revenue to slow down the production of weapons.”
In order to convince China to agree to the sanctions, Haley worked to assure them that the sanctions would actually help avoid war on the peninsula. China eventually agreed.
Haley sees China as the biggest threat to the United States today.
“They are strengthening their military and investing all over the world,” Haley explained. “Any company doing business in China must cooperate with the Chinese military.”
“We can do business with China,” she said, “but we can not let them get away with anything.”
When asked if she might be called “Madame President” in 2025, Nikki deflected. “A year is a lifetime in politics. It would be a waste of energy to think that far ahead.”
Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.