Growing up, my family ate dinner together nearly every single night. We talked about a lot of things around the dinner table, but politics was definitely not one of them.
So, if you would have told me as a kid that every single one of my siblings and I would end up working for the government in one capacity or another, I wouldn’t have believed you. When people find out about our political backgrounds, they always ask if we planned it that way. I suppose it would have made for a cool story if we had. But the truth is, we were all so different. We had completely different dreams for ourselves and none of those dreams involved politics–at least not for most of us.
Funny thing about dreams though, our parents were big proponents of us following ours. If you want to be something, make it happen. Otherwise you’ll end up in a job you hate your whole life (and never, ever go into retail). That was kind of our mantra.
We grew up in a suburban town near Salt Lake City, Utah where probably 95% of the population is on the far-right side of the political spectrum. Though we ate dinner together as a family nearly every single night, I don’t recall a single conversation about politics. Not a single one. We talked more about church-related things, our family, school, our parents’ jobs, but never politics. The only recollection I have of anything regarding politics was my mom mentioning once that her brothers liked to listen to Rush Limbaugh’s radio program. When I later heard a clip of one of his shows I remember wondering “Why!? Why would anyone listen to this?” It wasn’t just that it was an extremely right-winged radio program but that it discussed politics at all. I couldn’t fathom why that would interest someone. I guess when the majority of people around you all thought the same way politically, there wasn’t anything there to foster an interest in politics and therefore it was just never on my radar.
It wasn’t until all the scandals with President Clinton started and his impeachment trial began that I even paid any sort of attention. I remember thinking “He did what with a White House intern!? Wait . . . you can intern at the White House? That’s so cool!” But at the same time, it seemed to me that possibilities like that only existed in a different kind of world for people in different social/economical classes. Definitely not me.
Funny how life turns out. I never in a million years would have thought that not only would I be offered an internship there a few short years later but that eventually as a White House staffer, I’d also have my own interns there.
Back to my family though. My older brother was probably the most politically minded one in our family. I’m not sure how that began but it was always kind of his thing. He was the smarty pants of the family. I don’t think I’m an idiot by any means, but he always seemed one step ahead in any sort of intellectual train of thought. He amazed me and therefore, I left politics to him. Looking back, I think in my own little box I’d placed myself in, I thought political jobs were for intellectually superior types of people and not for “normal” people like me and I never gave it another thought. My brother, though, he interned at our state legislature, went to law school, was recruited by several government agencies afterward but ultimately ended up working for the State Department. He has worked at U.S. embassies all across the world. He’s pretty rad.
My youngest sister landed a job at USAID (The U.S. Agency for International Development, the government agency that helps countries in poverty) after college. She ended up traveling all over Africa in support of humanitarian assistance for the government. She’s the street-smarts one of the family and traveling to third world countries as a single woman didn’t bother her one bit–never mind that her red hair makes her stick out like a sore thumb in every country she visits. She thrived off of that stuff and amazed us all in the process. If I could have been a good mix between my brother and my little sister, I’m sure I’d have it made.
That brings me to Andrea and I. You can read more about our government/political experience in more detail here. The short of it though is this: after several years as a news reporter, Andrea felt compelled to move to D.C. It opened up a journey of its own. And for me, a random spur of the moment trip to Washington, D.C. with friends my sophomore year of college gave me the courage to apply to BYU’s Washington Seminar program the next year. Thus started my journey into this crazy world of politics. So, all while my brother went through law school, his thing became my thing and I never thought twice about it.
I can’t say I never thought I’d end up back in Washington after college though, because after my first taste of it, that’s exactly where I wanted to end up. I specifically remember my last day as an intern, as I was walking back to my apartment I turned the corner and there was the dome of the U.S. Capitol all lit up so majestically that it nearly took my breath away. I remember it was like time stood still and God came down from heaven and spoke to me: “Promise, PROMISE that you will never forget how you feel right now and that you will come back to D.C. after graduation!” I kept that promise and my life was drastically changed forever. I’m sure my siblings would say the same thing about their experiences. In fact, I’m pretty sure my parents would say the same thing, too. We’ve all had some out of this world experiences that never would have happened had we not all worked for the United States government. Our family, living in little old Sandy, Utah never would have imagined this would become our realities. It really is the coolest thing to look back at our journeys. We all took such different paths to get there, that were very much our own, but ended up being huge game changers for every single one of us.
Being involved in politics and working in a civic capacity can be the biggest blessing. Not just because of some of the cool perks associated with it (like attending presidential inaugurations, for instance), but because it truly gives you a sense of belonging to a higher purpose–doing something that is bigger than yourself. Seeing our country in action gives you such a unique perspective of what it means to be an American. In fact, we’re excited to share more stories with you of families who have come together through civic involvement. You don’t have to be a genius or part of the top 1% to be involved in the shaping of your country, your city, your county. If little old me can do it, anyone can.
So whether you live in Salt Lake City, Chicago, L.A., or Dallas, it all starts somewhere. Even at the dinner table.
Former White House and Capitol Hill staffer, wife, and mom.