Ed. Note: White House intern Andrew Mangino shares the story below. College students, recent graduates and veterans with a passion for public service are encouraged to apply for Summer 2010 internships. Visit the Internship Program website to learn more about the program and to apply.
Something happened last week that I will never forget: I introduced the Vice President of the United States of America.
It’s also something I never imagined could happen, let alone only 11 days after my 23rd birthday. Not so long ago -- just a few months, in fact -- I was lying on my parents’ couch, freshly graduated from college, listening to the Jackson 5, and, well, not exactly sure what was next.
So, as an aspiring writer with a passion for politics, I applied. And soon, I got a call. And an e-mail. And before I knew it, I was sitting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, working for -- it’s still strange to say it -- the leader of the free world. I was eating lunch in the White House Mess. I was representing the President while mentoring local public-school students. I was drafting speeches for the Vice President. I was petting Bo.
And last Wednesday, it all culminated as I enjoyed the privilege of a lifetime: introducing the Vice President to 115 fellow interns, some of the kindest, most passionate people I’ve ever met.
As the hour approached, I promised myself I wouldn’t get nervous. But as the Secret Service agents behind me could see, I was trembling. Big time. When the applause (for the VP, not me) subsided, I began, describing how the Vice President held court with his interns at a recent holiday party, entrancing us with Senate stories and life lessons. And I described when then-Senator Biden made his first visit to the Senate gym 36 years ago -- and encountered three prominent statesmen “as naked as on the day they were born.”
“But there’s something in that story as it relates to the Vice President,” I said. “And don’t worry, it transcends nudity… You see, you all don’t only know Joe Biden the statesman…you already know Joe Biden the man. Because as rare as this is in politics, those two are -- in every way for this VP -- one and the same.”
Vice President Biden, strolling from one end of the room to the other, did not disappoint. For two hours, he answered our questions with candor. He encouraged us to channel modesty always in Washington, because “my power is merely reflective of the President’s power”—and the President’s power is merely reflective of the people’s.
He told us that in 36 years of public service, he had never -- not once -- been as optimistic as he is today. History, he said, is at an inflection point -- and it’s incumbent on our generation to keep our country and world on course.
I’ll never forget Wednesday afternoon -- the swarm of Secret Service as the motorcade arrived, the Vice President of the United States looking on as I introduced him to my friends, the surreal quality of it all. But speaking of inflection points… what I’ll truly cherish is this fall.
Andrew Mangino is an intern in the Office of the Vice President