This past fall, several hundred people in Madison Park, AL glowed with pride when their native son Eric Motley published his memoirs. Eric was born to a single mother and raised by his grandparents in a town, he remembers as “a close-knit cocoon of several hundred self-reliant descendants of former slaves.” To me, Eric’s home town sounds like a dream come true or an offbeat version of Mayberry, or maybe a little of both.
As a boy, Eric was given the opportunities, love and attention that his biological parents and most residents of Madison Park never had. Aunt Shine, Old Man Salery and Reverend Brinkley are just a few of the characters who escorted Eric in his journey from a kid who was challenged by basic grammar in first grade to an erudite gentleman who collects rare books, serves on numerous boards and worked for a US President.
Today, Eric is the Executive Vice President and Corporate Secretary at the Aspen Institute, one of the nation’s most elite think tanks. In addition to running Institutional Advancement and Governance, Eric recently managed the search for the replacement for long-serving President and CEO Walter Isaacson. Since 2007, Eric has held many roles at Aspen, including Executive Director of National Programs, Managing Director of the Henry Crown Fellows Program and Executive Director of the Aspen-Rockefeller Foundation’s Commission to Reform the Federal Appointments Process.
Prior to joining the Aspen Institute, Eric served as the Director of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of International Visitors within the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. After receiving his Ph.D. from St. Andrews University, he joined the White House staff at the age of 27 and was the youngest appointee in the George W. Bush Administration. He became Special Assistant for Presidential Personnel in 2003, where he managed the appointment process in the White House for over 1,200 presidentially-appointed advisory board and commission positions. The office had a 100-person staff and a budget that exceeded $80 million.
Motley serves on numerous national and Washington, DC boards. He is involved in the arts and humanities and is a passionate book collector. His life story was featured in the Washington Post in 2006 as part of the series “Being a Black Man in America.”
Throughout the arc of his spectacular career, Eric has been motivated by lessons from his Madison Park upbringing in self-determination, hope and an unceasing belief in the American dream. He is guided by the philosophy to never turn away from a neighbor in need. With the pervasive divisiveness rampant in society today, Eric felt the need butt the tide and recognize the ties that bind us. So, he wrote a memoir to celebrate the people who came together to launch his success and to remind people of the power of community. If you would like to learn more about Eric, we (and Oprah and Southwest Magazine) highly recommend his memoir, Madison Park: A Place of Hope.