Bamberg, South Carolina in 1972 was a place where the railroad tracks divided the town by race.
So when Nikki Haley was born – one of four children to the only Indian-American family in town – she was already an outsider. But Nikki’s mom would always say her job was not to show everyone how she was different…but how she was the same. And she would also tell her how blessed she was to live in America.
In 2004, Haley ran for the South Carolina State House against a 30-year incumbent Republican lawmaker in the primary and won. In the state legislature, she took on the old guard culture of Columbia and pushed for tax cuts and transparency when legislators in both parties voted to increase their taxpayer-funded benefits. As retaliation, the Republican leadership blackballed Haley, removed her from her committee assignments and attempted to end her career.
So she ran for Governor. And won.
In 2010, Haley was elected the 116th governor of South Carolina. She was the youngest governor in the country and first minority female governor in America.
During Governor Haley’s tenure, South Carolina was a national economic leader. Known as the “Beast of the Southeast,” the state’s unemployment rate hit a 15-year low, it saw over $20 billion in new capital investment, and her administration announced new jobs in every county in the state.
Governor Haley brought sweeping reform to South Carolina. She passed ethics reform and signed into law a bill that for the first time required lawmakers to put their votes “on the record”. She improved education and empowered parents by signing a charter school bill that expanded school choice. And she brought South Carolinians together when tragedy struck – both in the aftermath of the racially motivated murders at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, and following the destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew.
The people of South Carolina decisively reelected her in 2014. Two years later, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
In 2016, President Donald Trump nominated Governor Haley to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. In that role, she also served as a member of the President’s Cabinet and on the National Security Council. As ambassador, Haley defended U.S. interests, kept our country safe, and championed human rights.
Nikki and Michael Haley met at Clemson University. Michael, a combat veteran, deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, making Nikki the first governor in U.S. history to have her spouse deployed. Michael is currently deployed overseas again for a year-long mission. The Haleys have been married for 26 years and have two children, Rena and Nalin. They also have two dogs, Bentley and Rio.