|White House Intern Darden Callaway '14 Reports “The Gravitas Is Palpable”
August 05, 2011
Contact: Bill Giduz
Belk Scholar Darden Callaway '14 is serving a ten-week internship this summer in the White House. The experience will undoubtedly enhance her plans to major in history, with an emphasis on the late 20th century. The news office contacted Callaway to find out more. Here's what we asked and how she replied:
|Darden Callaway '14
Q: Have you had any previous politically oriented summer jobs?
A: One summer I worked in the Dominican Republic with a Peace Corps worker. That got me interested in public policy. My high school history teacher was a lawyer who made politics seem exciting. He helped me get an internship with U.S. Representative Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), and every morning the Congressman would spend an hour with the interns discussing the daily news and political landscape. That was an invaluable and enlightening experience.
Q: How did you find out about the White House job?
A: My friend who was a White House intern last summer told me about her experience and sent me a link to the Web site application forms. The program is competitive but unpaid. There are spring, summer and fall opportunities. I was fortunate to get letters of support from several North Carolina leaders, including former Davidson President Tom Ross. I was very honored to be selected.
Q: Have you had any direct contact with the President or other top government officials?
A: I have seen the President and Vice President, but did not interact with them.
Q: Describe your job.
A: I work in the Office of Public Engagement, which is responsible for building relationships with advocacy groups and other non-governmental organizations. The office is also the primary channel through which the general public relates to the White House. There is a lot of variety to my internship. Sometimes the tasks are tedious, but occasionally they are very exciting.
Q: What's the difference between the TV version of the West Wing and your first-hand experience in the White House?
A: I loved the TV version and have the DVDs. The real West Wing is a lot quieter and less chaotic. The real people work harder and talk less. The gravitas is palpable. No sign of Sam Seaborn either.
Q: What have you learned about government?
A: Overall, my experience has been positive. The staffs in both the congressional office and the White House are incredibly idealistic, dedicated and experienced. They work long hours. They get frustrated when partisan politics get in the way of good public policy.
Q: Do you bring your lunch or go out for lunch? Describe your social life.
A: We have a nice cafeteria, where interns and staff eat together. It is difficult to eat outside because the White House neighborhood has a lot of tourists. I live in a dorm at George Washington University, which is about five blocks away. There is a good contingent of Davidson students in Washington. I highly recommend working in Washington for the summer.
Q: Have you run into other Davidson students in Washington?
A: It has been fun to see other Davidson students who are interning in D.C. or who live in the area. Ashley Augsburger '12 lives on my hall in my dorm. I have also run into Davidson alum Scott Buckhout '07, who works in the White House.
Q: In what ways will this internship influence your future academic and career plans?
A: This experience taught me a lot about how political organizations work. I met a lot of interesting people. I learned how to fit into a complex work hierarchy. I developed the endurance to work intensely every day. In the short term, I hope to leverage this experience into a role at the Democratic National Convention, which will occur in Charlotte in September 2012. I believe in the leadership of Barack Obama and want to support him fully. I'm not sure of my long-term plans, but I hope someday to work with people as interesting and exciting as my friends at the White House.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,900 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.