You’ve seen it on TV. You’ve seen it in books and magazines. Perhaps you’ve even seen it from several hundred yards away. But Jordan Osserman ’11 got to see the White House from a vantage point few get: from the inside.
With the help from a grant from the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and Social Sciences, Osserman participated in the highly competitive internship program during his fall term. What he took away from the experience left an indelible mark on the power of public service.
See a short video produced by the White House Internship Program and featuring Jordan.
Q: What was your first day in the White House like?
A: I remember walking up the steps of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where our orientation was held, and feeling completely in awe -- this was a building that housed some of the most important and intelligent policy makers in the world, and most people would never be able to set foot in it their entire lives. Most of the day was spent learning about our responsibilities and the opportunities we would be offered throughout the internship.
Q: What was the application process like for the White House internship program?
A: The application (which is available on Whitehouse.gov) required two short essays, three letters of recommendation, and a resume. Applicants were asked to rank the offices in order of preference. A little while after I applied I received an e-mail requesting to schedule a phone interview, and then I got a phone call from the Media Affairs office, where I was ultimately hired.
Q: What was your workday like?
A: Primarily, my co-worker and I did media monitoring --searching the news for stories relevant to the administration. We also helped pitch interviews for members of the administration, calling TV and radio outlets throughout the country to set up short interviews with cabinet members on issues like health care and the H1N1 virus. Getting to say "Hi, I'm calling from White House Communications" was always a thrill and certainly caught the attention of the person on the line. Additionally, I helped the people in my office with various projects large and small, and took minutes during our morning meetings
Q: Did you get to meet any politicians or attend any events?
A: The White House Internship Program has a very extensive speaker series; every week we had a Q&A with at least one high-level member of the administration. I was lucky enough to be selected to introduce Rahm Emanuel (White House Chief of Staff) when he spoke to the interns, and got to chat with him one-on-one for a few minutes beforehand in the waiting room. I also attended a plethora of events at the White House. Some of the highlights include helping out in Michelle Obama's White House garden; attending one of the winter holiday parties; watching the President perform the annual Thanksgiving "Turkey Pardon;" and volunteering at Fiesta Latina, a concert outside the White House residence featuring top Latin Pop Stars.
The program also has an extensive community service component. Once a week, interns served as volunteer tutors at local DC high schools, providing support and mentorship for underprivileged students as well as encouraging them to apply for the White House internship themselves.
Q: What did you learn while you were there?
A: I gained a real feel for the complexity and difficulty of governance and the insane amount of work that each staff member puts into a single day in the office, often without great recognition. I also gained an appreciation for the sheer brain power and talent of all of the members of the administration -- it's truly inspiring to see the dedication, passion and brilliance at work in everyone in the White House.
Q: What's the number one thing people want to know when you tell them you were a White House intern?
A: They all want to know if I met the President -- and the answer is yes, we all had a chance to meet him during an intern group photo.