From a College on the Hill to Capital Hill
Campus involvement: Doane Owl, Student Congress Senator, Honors Program, Delta Kappa Pi Fraternity, former Resident Assistant
As I chugged along atop my uncle's old 3020 John Deere one hot dusty August afternoon, I contemplated what I would pack into my suitcase. In less than a week, I would be trading in my Wranglers with the blown-out knee and paint splatters for a suit and tie. I would be leaving that patch of earth south of Ogallala, Neb., for the White House.
Two months after graduating from Doane with a journalism degree, I was selected to be an intern in the Communications Department for the Obama Administration. I had no background in political science. I never worked on a campaign. I wasn't even a Democrat. How could some kid with little experience from a red state be qualified for such a post?
As it turns out, the selection was no accident. Upon arriving, I quickly learned that while I came from a part of the country most of my fellow interns had only heard of, I was ready to keep pace with the demands of the next few months. In some ways, I was even more prepared. I had been to the district twice before: once with Dr. Betty Levitov's Holocaust literature class and once to cover the 2009 presidential inauguration for a journalism interterm. In fact, my alma mater played a significant role in an opportunity that would shape my future. Rewind four years.
I vividly remember the second week of my first year in the basement of Gaylord Hall. Dr. Lee Thomas showed me to the radio station control room, handed me a copy of the "KDNE bible" and said: "Your show starts tonight." As I sat there, surrounded by a blurring array of blinking lights and bobbing meters, fully confident that just one wrong press of a button would drain Doane Lake or send Merrill Bell hurtling to the ground, I wondered, "How on earth did I get myself into this?" But I survived and came away with four years of live broadcast experience. At most schools, students have to wait years before they have access to that sort of hands-on practice.
It was that practice, together with international exploration during a semester in Ireland, and leadership training while holding office in Delta Kappa Pi and Student Congress, that shaped a resume that would compete with those from the most respected and coveted universities. Doane for me was a sort of education smorgasbord where I could sample the flavors of a variety of disciplines. And I ate it up.
Perhaps the liberal arts diversity was the biggest leg up to the White House. It instilled a sense of curiosity for the world and a confidence that if I didn't know something (politics in this case), I could quickly learn. So, fast forward back to the fall of 2009, exchange the flashing buttons of the KDNE studio for the West Wing where that feeling comes rushing back. And that same question bubbles up again in my mind: "How on earth did I get into this?" The answer is that I spent four years preparing for it, being challenged to adapt to new and different situations. I was ready for the challenges that awaited me.
I stepped into the White House along side graduates of Ivy League institutions and well-connected, well-to-dos and I never felt under qualified. The reality is that so long as you are willing to take on a challenge, you can go anywhere, regardless of if you're from the coast or the cornfields.
Doane prepares us for whatever may lie ahead. A diploma from Doane is a license to learn-a sort of certificate commemorating the first steps in a quest for more knowledge that can take you anywhere, including 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
On the job:
Taylor interned in the Communications Department within the Executive Office of the President. The office coordinates all television coverage with White House officials. He was responsible for monitoring network and cable TV coverage of the administration, creating media reports for senior White House officials, and staffing on-campus interviews. The Health Insurance Reform process, bank regulatory reform, H1N1 outbreak and vaccine shortage, the State Dinner Security breach and the failed Christmas Day bomb plot all fell under his watch.
The job allowed him to work with the President, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Senior Advisor David Axelrod, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Chief Economists Austan Goolsbee and Larry Summers and several top security advisors. He also worked with several prominent news professionals including Dan Lothian (CNN), Bob Scheiffer (CBS), Chris Hansen (NBC) and Katie Couric (CBS). The program included a speaker series where interns heard from Senior Advisors Valarie Jarrett and Pete Rouse, the Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, The First Lady, The Vice President and others. Following the internship, Taylor took a job with Nebraska Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb. 1) as a staff assistant in the DC office.
Taylor's must-see list for Nebraskans headed to Washington
Mt. Vernon - President George Washington's homestead is as rural as the district area gets. It boasts agricultural tools and techniques from the colonial years.
Nebraska Society of Washington, DC - The organization aims to promote cultural and patriotic ties among Nebraskans in the area. It's conveniently located across the street from the White House campus.
U.S. Navy Memorial - Like the one on Doane's Crete campus, the U.S. Navy Memorial towers in tribute to U.S. service men and women. Designed by Doane alumnus William Conklin ‘44, it is located across from the National Archives.
Union Pub - An oasis for Husker Football on the East coast, this watering hole brims with Scarlet and Cream on game days. The Cornhusker-loyal bar and grill is located just blocks from the Capitol.