I had served in staff capacities in the Office of National Drug Control Policy — what is still called “the Drug Czar’s Office — for two different Directors for about five years, and I was done with it. I was anxious to move on to something a little more central, something a little closer to the action of the White House itself. I’d been stuck on the eighth floor of a nondescript office building (complete with a McDonald’s on the ground floor) for five years. I wanted something better, cooler, more exciting.
A White House Fellow in the Drug Czar’s Office I’d been working with got me an interview with his counterpart who worked in the Office of the First Lady, an organization under her called the White House Millennium Council.
Established by Executive Order 13072, the Millennium Council mission was:
…to lead the country in a celebration of the new millennium by initiating and recognizing national and local projects that contribute in educational, creative, and productive ways to America’s commemoration of this historic time.
My job title was Information Systems Coordinator. The job itself probably sounds odd in the technology-rich world where we live in today, but at the time, it was pretty great. I worked with the White House tech gurus to build a website for the Council, and to do things that are done with the touch of a button now, like import names into databases.
(If you want to get a sense of what I worked with, click here — but please remember: this was 1998, well before modern websites were really a thing. It is also the site as it is housed in the National Archives database. This isn’t always what it looked like.)
The highlights of the work for me were the White House Millennium Evenings, “a series of lectures and cultural showcases hosted by the President and First Lady that highlight the creativity and inventiveness of the American people through our ideas, art and scientific discoveries.” We aired them on TV, but the best part was streaming them on the internet. I’m not sure anything quite like it had ever been done before, but working with the White House tech guys (and Sun Microsystems, their contractor), we figured it out.
It meant getting to walk around places like the East Room to set up. I still think walking across the roof of the East Wing of the White House to run cable from the room where these events were held to a staff room and a bank of computers was one of the highlights of my time as a Clinton Administration staffer.
I was loyal to the First Lady, obviously, and I enjoyed working with her staff. But the work was hard.
Around Christmas of that year, I was asked to bring some reports to the White House residence for the First Lady to review. Since everyone at the Council was traveling for the holiday, or was otherwise out, I was tasked to courier the documents across the street (we were located in the Jackson Place townhouse offices in Lafayette Square Park).
No big deal, package the stuff up in an envelope, walk it over, get through security, and then about as far as I could go: the White House Usher’s office. The White House Usher at the time was a long-serving and highly regarded gentleman named Gary Walters. Mr. Walters himself took the package from me, assured me it would be delivered, and I wandered back in the cold to the quiet Millennium Council townhouse.
It was as mundane a task as you can imagine, and I honestly didn’t think about it again.
Then my phone rang, and the caller ID said “W.H RESIDENCE,” which prompted me to pick up very quickly.
It was the First Lady.
I don’t remember her exact words. I was too shocked. But I do remember her thanking me profusely for the effort. And I remember her wishing me a very merry Christmas.
I remember she was warm, friendly, and took more than just a quick minute. She was kind, and she didn’t have to be.
For what it’s worth, I remember being fairly mealy-mouthed and weird. But the thing is, I will always remember that event.
That story in no way is any reason to vote for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States. But it’s a pretty good story.
I only worked in that job for about a year. I got an offer at the United States Department of Justice in 1999, and I couldn’t pass it up.
Both Hillary and Bill Clinton have been a part of my life since I was pretty young. He first became the Governor of Arkansas in 1978. I was around seven years old when he got elected, only about a year older than Emeline is now.
Chelsea and my sister are the same age, played in the same softball league in Hillcrest, where we grew up.
They’ve just… always been around. That’s no reason for me to vote for her, either.
I’ve been involved in politics and campaigns for a long time now. Hillary Clinton is going to be a remarkable president. I think she is being underestimated right now, which is fine. But she has spent a lifetime shaping domestic and global policy. She understands the levers of power probably better than anyone preparing to lead the free world. This is nothing but a benefit to America.
And that’s a great reason to vote for her.
I think most people get this on some level. And I that’s why they’re going to turn out for her in droves, and she will win in a landslide.
Hillary Clinton won’t ever pick up the phone and call me directly again. That’s okay. I’ll be watching here from Florida. Can’t wait to see what all she will accomplish.
Just a reminder that this is my personal blog, and that the views I express here are not necessarily those of my employer, Mayor Rick Kriseman and the City of St. Petersburg.