In the Noh

Sixteen Hundred Pennsylvania Avenue

Sixteen Hundred Pennsylvania Avenue
Medill senior finds her White House internship an exciting, professional experience. By Kimberly Mosser

It’s no secret that the role of the White House intern has come under scrutiny in recent years. When I told my family and friends I was going to spend the summer as a White House intern, some advised, with slanted looks, “Stay out of the news.”

I didn’t need to worry. The atmosphere at the White House was of the utmost professionalism, and the intern program afforded me opportunities I couldn’t have even dreamed of. There’s just no better place to be an unpaid intern than at the White House in Washington, D.C. Some of the highlights of my internship included attending the Intern Speaker Series presentations by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s top political adviser; sitting in on a taping of CNN’s Crossfire; and touring the Pentagon.

Working in the nerve center of the U.S. political system is an experience I won’t soon forget. Every day was exciting and unpredictable. I worked in the Media Affairs Office, which deals with reporters of every medium outside the national beltway. Six other interns and I fielded hundreds of calls every day from reporters across the country wanting to know everything from the president’s shoe size to his stance on immigration. Our job was to forward the calls to the appropriate spokespeople who were assigned to different areas of the country. On some days, we’d take more than 100 messages each. The hours were long, the call volume was overwhelming and the pressure was suffocating. It was the most fun I’ve ever had.

One of my favorite experiences at the White House came on just my second day on the job: I had the chance to see a Marine One arrival on the South Lawn when President George W. Bush, first lady Laura Bush and senior staff returned home from a morning meeting with Pakistan’s president General Pervez Musharraf at Camp David.

On my way to the arrival, I was escorted through the Rose Garden. I thought of all the news conferences and presidential statements that had occurred on that small plot of land, all the state heads that had been welcomed and all the history that had been made. And there, tucked into a corner of the Rose Garden, were two plastic water bowls for the first dogs Spotty, a descendent of the former President Bush’s English springer spaniel, Millie, and Barney, a Scottish terrier who is known among White House staff to have the run of the West Wing and complete control of the president’s heart. They were right there in the Rose Garden outside the Oval Office — doggie bowls. It occurred to me that this place was not just the center of our nation but someone’s home.

Suddenly, there were three massive helicopters in the southern sky, all headed directly for us. When they reached the White House grounds, two of the choppers peeled off to the sides, and the one carrying the president landed squarely on three small pieces of orange rubber. The sound and force of the wind from the chopper’s blades were indescribable — thunderous is my best attempt. Slowly, the blades stopped, and an impeccably decorated Marine burst from the front door of the cabin. He marched to the back door to let the press pool out and then back to the front. An inside door swung open and out came — not the president — but Spotty and Barney. They lumbered down the Marine One steps and onto the lush lawn, followed by their faithful master. He waved to us and to the press and then turned back to watch the first lady, Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell emerge from the helicopter. I was overwhelmed. And I had forgotten my camera.

But I’d have another opportunity. It was on former press secretary Ari Fleischer’s last day at the White House that the president and vice president were scheduled to take a group photo with the intern class. As we arranged ourselves for the picture on the steps of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Fleischer strolled out of the West Wing on the way to his “surprise” going-away party. Graciously acknowledging our applause, he came over and wished us well. I remember it being like spotting your favorite character at Disney World — there’s little you can do but wave and grin like an idiot. Minutes later, the president — notorious for his punctuality — came out of the West Wing, looked straight at us and said with a grin, “Don’t be late for work.”

I wasn’t.

Kimberly Mosser (J04) of Fairfield, N.J., hopes to pursue a career in corporate or political communications.

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