I have dreamed about working at the White House for as long as I can remember, but it did not seem like a foreseeably attainable goal until I learned about the internship program. When I arrived at the complex for my first day of work, I was nervous and apprehensive, guided by nothing more than wild speculations about what would follow.
As it turns out, the following three months were some of the most unpredictable, grueling, and exhilarating of my life. From my first week in the Presidential Personnel Office, I was privileged to witness every step of the process for processing political appointments within the executive branch, from selection to vetting to announcement. I spent most of my time completing background research on candidates for appointment. I would look through databases, archives, and registries, acquainting myself with every aspect of the candidate’s background.
My favorite assignments were POTUS memos. Every week, the Presidential Personnel Office sends the president a stack of memos outlining their choices for the highest-level appointments—the appointments the President is required to personally approve. Following strict guidelines, we explain the candidate’s qualifications and justify the selection. Even though I was working off of a very detailed template, the knowledge that the President himself would read my work was exciting, and I volunteered to draft POTUS memos whenever they came up.
As the semester went on, I also got the chance to attend some incredible events. Interns were invited to weekly lectures with speakers ranging from Director of Political Strategy David Simas to First Lady Michelle Obama to Vice President Joe Biden. In early April, I got to spend a full day outside at the Easter Egg Roll, right across the lawn from the main stage, where I saw the back of Beyoncé’s head and spent the next several hours recovering. I spent one morning at the state arrival ceremony for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, where I got my first glimpse of the president in person, and another at an event honoring the Wounded Warriors, where I took a selfie with the vice president.
I had almost no expectations for my internship, but the reality of the semester turned out better than anything I would have predicted. I will always remember the work I did, the things I saw, and the people I met.