Barack Obama, Weekly Address, March 7, 2009
|Second Lady Jill Biden is briefed by her policy director Kirsten White L'07 and her director of scheduling and advance Anthony Bernal on Air Force Two en route to San Antonio, Texas, April 6, 2010.|
One day last October, Biden flew to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to see off hundreds of marines about to deploy to Afghanistan. Mother of an Iraq veteran herself, Mrs. Biden thanked the marines for their service and shared Carolina barbeque with wounded warriors.
Accompanying her was Kirsten White L'07, policy director for Mrs. Biden. The scene touched White to her marrow. "It was a really moving and extraordinary experience that I think all civilians should have the opportunity to do," says White."It's really opened my eyes to the sacrifices that military members make on a daily basis."
In other words, it was a defining moment. White has traveled the country with Mrs. Biden, who has carved out twin missions in the administration: military families and community colleges. Mrs. Biden relies on White to help her gather information on the needs of the military and their families and the financial aid opportunities available to would-be community college students. Mrs. Biden is an adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College.
It did not take long for White to become enmeshed in the job. The ceremonial Easter Egg Roll was held on her first day.
"It involved a massive number of people and it was fairly hectic in the building," recalls White. "Right off the bat I met the vice president and it was pretty clear there was going to be no lack of excitement on a day-to-day basis."
White turned 32 on Inauguration Day. Although she did not attend the inauguration, the Maine native did go to the Southern States Ball with fellow Penn Law alumni, Niall O'Donnell L'07 and Mike Bloom L'07. A former aide to Sen.
Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), when Barack Obama was elected White was an associate at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and did not expect to work for the White House. All that changed when she interviewed with Mrs. Biden. They clicked. White said she identified with the second lady and considers her a role model: independent, compassionate and well-educated, much like her mother and sisters.
"I can't believe this is my job," says White, whose office is in a building near the White House. "I have pinch-me moments I think on a daily or weekly basis."
A few weeks after White started her job, the president signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. The bill provides opportunities for Americans of all ages to do community service in areas such as education, health services and the environment.
White says there is a similar commitment to national service throughout the administration, and she has caught the contagion.
She spent part of the Christmas holiday doing service projects in the community.
This involvement, she contends, as well as her joy in the job and her respect for Mrs. Biden, anchors her against the antigovernment sentiment that abounds in the country.
"I don't let any cynicism about Washington deter my passion," says White.
She is just too busy for that.