The Obama White House staff invites us behind-the-scenes of history for a deeply personal and moving look at the presidency. Each of these staffers has a story to tell, and in West Wingers, Barack Obama’s White House staff reveals how these extraordinary citizens shape the presidency and the nation.
Proceeds from sales of West Wingers will support the Hope Incubator at Civic Nation, a new initiative to provide extraordinary organizers and organizations with seed funding, access to operations infrastructure, and mentoring from the Obama alumni network. Read more and apply.
Gautam Raghavan served as President Barack Obama’s liaison to the LGBTQ community as well as the Asian American and Pacific Islander community from 2011 to 2014. Earlier in the Obama administration, he worked for the U.S. Department of Defense and served on the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” working group. Earlier in his political career, Raghavan worked for Progressive Majority, the Democratic National Committee, and the 2008 Obama campaign. Today, he serves as executive director of the Indian American Impact Project & Fund and as an advisor to the Biden Foundation.
Rumana Ahmed interned in the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence before becoming a full-time staffer. She then was a liaison to Muslim American and other communities in the Office of Public Engagement, where she also worked on highlighting community-based efforts to address issues like gun violence. Later, as Senior Advisor in the Office for Global Engagement and Strategic Communications in the National Security Council, she worked on advancing relations with Cuba and Laos.
Deesha Dyer first came to the White House in 2009 as an intern in the Office of Scheduling and Advance. In 2010, she returned as associate director of scheduling correspondence and was later promoted to deputy director and hotel program director, traveling with the President and First Lady working on press, lodging, and site logistics. In 2013 she was promoted again to deputy social secretary, and in 2015 she took on the role of special assistant to the President and social secretary of the White House.
Heather Foster served as both director of African American outreach and advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement. Before joining the White House, she served as the policy and outreach advisor at the Center for Faith- based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Education.
Hope Hall worked as a cinematographer on the documentary By the People, which followed then senator Obama’s trajectory into candidacy, before joining the 2008 campaign’s new media team as a staff filmmaker, and then serving on the presidential transition team. In May 2011, she became President Obama’s principal videographer at the White House in the Office of Digital Strategy. Her personal work has taken her to artist residencies all around the world, has been shown in more than fifty film festivals and exhibitions worldwide, and has won numerous awards, including at Sundance.
Brad Jenkins worked as an investment professional for six years before joining the Obama campaign in 2008. On the campaign, Brad worked on youth media, helping Obama turn out one of the largest youth vote numbers in history. Brad joined the White House in 2011, serving as a liaison to the creative community, working to inspire millions of Americans to take action.
Leah Katz-Hernandez first joined the Obama family as campaign volunteer, and then interned in the White House after graduating from Gallaudet University. Later, she worked as a research associate and press assistant in the First Lady’s Office before becoming the West Wing receptionist, known informally as the Receptionist of the United States, or “ROTUS.”
Cecilia Muñoz served all eight years on President Obama’s senior White House staff, first as director of intergovernmental affairs, and then as assistant to the President and director of the Domestic Policy Council, which coordinates the domestic policy- making process in the White House. Prior to joining the Obama administration, she spent twenty years at UnidosUS (formerly known as the National Council of La Raza), the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization.
Darienne Page, a former U.S. Army noncommissioned officer and an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, joined the 2008 Obama campaign as a volunteer, working her way up from the campaign mailroom to become the first West Wing receptionist in the Obama White House. Later she served as director of veterans, wounded warriors, and military families outreach in the Office of Public Engagement, acting as a liaison between the White House and the veterans community.
Ned Price began his career in the CIA as an intelligence analyst in 2006, later becoming a spokesperson for the agency. In 2014, he joined the Obama administration on the National Security Council, advising the President on matters of foreign policy and national security, first as director of strategic communications and later as NSC spokesperson.
Aneesh Raman was a speechwriter for President Obama from 2011 to 2013, following a year at the Pentagon and two years as speechwriter to Treasury secretary Tim Geithner amidst a historic financial crisis. From 2004 to 2008 he was a foreign correspondent for CNN, first based out of Southeast Asia and later the Middle East, where he spent a year as the network’s Baghdad correspondent during the Iraq War.
Michael Robertson started working for Barack Obama on his 2004 U.S. Senate race and later served on his U.S. Senate staff as legislative coordinator and deputy to the chief counsel. After working for the 2008 campaign and transition team, Robertson then worked as the United States General Services Administration’s chief of staff before joining the White House as deputy cabinet secretary, leading the team that liaised with cabinet departments and agencies on President Obama’s behalf.
Julie Chavez Rodriguez
Julie Chavez Rodriguez served for five and a half years in the White House Office of Public Engagement, initially as the point person on immigration and Latino issues and later as special assistant to the President, managing a team responsible for engaging leaders in the LGBTQ, AAPI, Latino, veterans, youth, education, labor, and progressive communities.
Lynn Rosenthal was the first- ever White House advisor on violence against women. At the White House, she also represented the Vice President on the White House Council on Women and Girls and cochaired the President’s Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/ AIDS, Violence Against Women and Girls, and Gender- Related Health Disparities. She has over twenty- five years of experience advocating on behalf of women, including serving as executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence from 2000 to 2006.
Michael Strautmanis has known the Obamas for more than twenty- five years, starting when he joined Sidley & Austin where Mrs. Obama was working as a young lawyer. Later, he served as chief counsel on Barack Obama’s Senate staff. Strautmanis continued to be a close aide to the President throughout his first term, serving as counselor for strategic engagement, deputy assistant to the President, and chief of staff to senior advisor Valerie Jarrett.
Raina Thiele worked in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, where she focused on tribal governments and advised on climate change, Arctic, and energy issues. She was also a lead organizer of President Obama’s trip to Alaska in the fall of 2015. Earlier, Raina served for nearly five years in the White House Office of Management and Budget, where she worked on a wide variety of issues, including tribal legislation, international affairs, and energy. She is Dena’ina Athabascan and Yup’ik and is a proud Alaskan.
Stephanie Valencia worked for Barack Obama for nearly a decade, starting as deputy Latino vote director on the 2008 campaign, and then serving on the Obama- Biden transition team before joining the White House at the start of the first term. Valencia ended her time at the White House as special assistant to the President and principal deputy director in the Office of Public Engagement.
Bill Yosses was the White House executive pastry chef from 2007 to 2014, where he was closely involved with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative. Prior to his time at the White House, Yosses was the executive pastry chef at the Dressing Room, Tavern on the Green, and Bouley Restaurant. He is the coauthor of three books on baking, including The Sweet Spot: Dialing Back Sugar and Amping Up Flavor.
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