As Hyundai North America’s first director of communications, Dana W. White knows what it’s like to have two feet in two worlds.
“Growing up, I always knew about the power of communication, the power of words,” she said about her childhood in Charlottesville, Virginia. “My grandfather, who was born in 1896, started the oldest black newspaper in the state. I used to cut ad sheets every month and wrote copies and processed black and white photos [at the paper]. The entrepreneurial spirit is deep in me and my family. “
Although there is no Charlottesville-Albemarle Tribune black weekly, the entrepreneurial spirit lives on in the family. “The environment in which I grew up, my family, was that there was never only a pot of gold waiting for me at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “It’s in my DNA – to make it happen for myself.”
Dr. Ben Chavis runs a commercial group for African-American newspaper publishers. “The National Newspaper Publishers Association commends Hyundai for promoting an African American woman to the position of Director of Communications. In this year of emphasis on empowering all women, Dana White represents and embodies the best of Black America, ”said Zenger News of White.
Dana White has no relationship with the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship of the same name.
She studied hard in college, purposefully attending the hardest courses, even when scheduled early in the morning and required long walks around the windy Chicago campus. These courses included learning to read, write and speak Mandarin, the most widely spoken Chinese dialect. She graduated in Chinese History from the University of Chicago.
White thought intensely about his choices about what to learn; she didn’t just go to the most popular courses or the easiest ones to get the highest grade. Of course, she said there are “easy” courses at the University of Chicago, which is competing for Ivy League students. “At that time, no one was thinking about China,” she said. “Everyone was terrified that Japan was taking over the world, but no one thought about this country of a billion people just sitting there, very quiet. I wanted to be sure that I would have a job for the next 50 years, find something that would be valuable for the future. So I decided to study Mandarin. “
She applied for scholarships to study in the capital of China, Beijing, and later in the capital of South Korea, Seoul. This field experience would later prove crucial in her career.
“I think it’s fascinating to work as a Black American in different cultures. In fact, sometimes I think this is an advantage because I experience my home culture differently and therefore find myself much more perceptive and intrigued by people, their language and their traditions. It is helpful in translating best practice and communication, ”she said. “Communication is not only about literal words, but also about the feelings, impressions and images that you convey or oppose.”
After college, she moved to Washington, DC without a job and worked as an intern and temporary to pay bills while applying for a job at the Capitol.
The Republican Committee for all GOP lawmakers, chaired by the rep. JC Watts, the only black Republican serving in Congress, was the first to call her back. She then took up a series of jobs in government and media, often working as the only black woman in the room. She accepted the post of deputy press secretary of the Republican House Conference, where she worked for two years until 2000.
She then joined the public relations team at Fox News from 2000 to 2001. She later joined the Heritage Foundation, a Capitol think tank that is influential among Republicans. “I was director of the Heritage Foundation’s Round Table for Asia-Pacific Journalists, which consisted of foreign correspondents from media outlets such as The Nikkei and Asahi Shimbun, and Chosun Ilbo.” She reminded herself. “I supervised about 400 different journalists from all over Asia.” She was distinguished by learning Chinese and Asian culture. Its careful preparation has paid off in unexpected ways. “At Heritage, I met great reporters from Taiwan, Japan and Korea. It was very beneficial when I first went to the Pentagon for the China Desk, then to Nissan and now to Hyundai. “
Her studies and experience quickly brought her back to the federal government. President George W. Bush has appointed her Taiwan National Director of the Department of Defense.
She returned to the private sector as editor for the arts and culture section of The Wall Street Journal, the country’s most widely read newspaper based in Hong Kong.
She then became director of policy and strategic communications for the Renault-Nissan Alliance, a joint venture of French and Japanese car makers. They needed someone who understood both the media and Asia – and she was one of the few to fit the bill. She quickly learned to speak French fluently and worked at the Renault headquarters in Paris. Even so, she never forgot her roots, often calling her mother, who had been born through racial segregation and then lived in an ever-expanding suburb of northern Virginia.
She returned from Paris in 2015 and started her own public relations firm, 1055 Grady, named after her grandfather’s address in Charlottesville, where she first inspired her to be an entrepreneur. Back in Washington, she was used by the Trump campaign to aid in their strategic communication. Shortly after Donald J. Trump was sworn in, she was asked to occupy a prestigious place in the Pentagon. Her previous work with the Department of Defense, along with knowledge and contacts in the American and foreign media, ideally placed her in the first place as head of public affairs at the Department of Defense. She was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and Chief Spokesperson for the Pentagon on April 7, 2017.
On the same day, the United States dispatched maneuvering missiles to Syria in response to attacks involving chemical weapons. Almost a year to the day, she went out to the world to announce US attacks on Syria in response to another chemical attack. She became the first black person to take this prestigious position.
She reported directly to then Secretary of Defense James Mattis. When he quit in 2018, she left the same day. “I left DoD with Mattis because I believe in his honesty,” she said.
Mattis differed with President Trump on issues ranging from the withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan to the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
Now Dana White manages North America communications for Hyundai Motor Company, a South Korean car manufacturer that produces more than half of its vehicles at its Alabama plant and employs approximately 25,000 people in the United States. She joined the Zenger News Advisory Board in 2019.
White sees herself as an intercultural bridge. At Hyundai Motor North America, he is the director of communications – the first Korean carmaker in the US. He oversees communications at Hyundai Motor North America headquarters and all Hyundai locations in North America, including Canada and Mexico, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, Glovis (Hyundai’s). Logistics Operations), Mobis (Hyundai Parts Operations), Hyundai Capital and an office in Washington. White also strategically oversees the luxury automotive brand Hyundai Genesis, which will make its debut in the GV80, the luxury brand’s first SUV.
“When I joined Hyundai a year ago, I knew I needed someone who understood top-level decision making, storytelling and seamless collaboration across cultures to achieve results. So I called Dana, ”said Jose Munoz, Global COO of Hyundai Motor Company and Pres. And general manager of Hyundai Motor North America. “It’s rare to find one person who has all the skills, talents and experiences they possess. And he has a proven track record of success. In a few short months, Dana has made a big change to the way we operate, communicate and tell the Hyundai story. ”
Ultimately, for White, she said her passions were education, excellence and empowerment. “I can still hear my grandfather’s harsh voice saying,“ Mouse, I want you to be a smart little girl. Find out everything you can. I think about everything he lived through, all the limitations placed on his life and how if he could see me now – the man who proudly posted pictures of my kindergarten in the newspaper – I know he would say … … what next? “
Her father, Sherman R. White, graduated from the Charlottesville segregated schools and was the reason for the desegregation of Charlottesville schools. He attended Howard University at the age of 16 and later committed to Alpha Phi Alpha. There he met her and married her mother Agnes Cross from Philadelphia. Her father was a minister of AME, and her mother was one of the first Negroes to secure civil service positions in Pennsylvania.
Her cousin Cheryl was president of the local Alpha Kappa Alpha branch in Williamsburg. In high school, Dana received a merit scholarship from the Delta Sigma Theta division of the University of Virginia. And her older brother is a graduate of Hampton University
“What’s inside me is that I’m driven by history and I’m obsessed with the future. I am passionate about ideas and mission. I want people to move forward – know their past and explore their future, ‘she said. “There is in my family – this spirit of persistence. I feel as if they handed me a club. They all ran hard, ran fast, and carried the baton as far as they could. Now it’s my responsibility to take that stick and run farther and faster and pass the stick on to the next generation. I say, “When you stand on the slaves’ shoulders, don’t slouch!”
(Edited by Robert George and Richard Miniter.)