Ed. note: Applications are now being accepted for the Summer 2015 White House Internship Program. This blog post introduces readers to Huma Shah, a former intern who worked in the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs in the summer of 2014. When asked about her internship experience, Huma writes:
My internship at the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs showed me that at the crux of public service is a mindset of teamwork and cooperation. From my first day until my last, every moment I spent in the White House was an enriching opportunity to learn, grow, and challenge myself. The internship taught me that every small contribution -- editing a memo, scheduling a phone call, or staffing an event -- truly makes a difference and is appreciated.
I had the privilege of working with the front office team for Senior Advisor to the President and Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, Valerie Jarrett. Ms. Jarrett’s portfolio includes everything from constituency engagement, to building relationships with state and local officials, to chairing the Council on Women and Girls. My once in a lifetime experience immersed me in both the big picture strategy and the important details that encompass the diverse issues and priorities of the President.
One of my fondest memories will undoubtedly be introducing Ms. Jarrett at an intern speaker series event. These events are organized by the White House Internship Program to allow interns to speak candidly with White House staff. In my careful research and preparation, which wasn’t easy given her lengthy list of achievements and accomplishments, I was taken aback by how many lives Ms. Jarrett had touched and improved over her career. The fact that she spent over two hours with the interns, answering every question asked, telling stories about her relationship with the President, and providing career advice, only solidified my admiration for her.
Another unforgettable experience was working on the annual White House Iftar dinner, celebrating Ramadan. President Obama hosted his 6th Iftar dinner this summer, inviting members of the diplomatic corps, White House officials, elected officials, and American Muslim community leaders. It was an honor to work behind the scenes, preparing invitations, schedules, memos, and logistics for the event. When the day came, I was lucky enough to help staff the dinner, to listen to the President’s remarks, and be there as he pointed to us upon his exit and said, “Good job, guys!”
Alongside these memories, the lesson that will stay with me is that teamwork is essential and invaluable to projects both large and small. My fellow interns and I worked as a team -- we could all depend on one another, and often needed to, in order to complete tasks. Though it may appear effortlessly perfect when we watch the President deliver a statement on television or read about an initiative like My Brother’s Keeper, the reality is that many hands were involved. The power of being part of a team with a common goal and mission cannot be underestimated. Great leaders like those I served with this summer know that too, and this is precisely the message that I share with all of my friends and family when I encourage them to apply to the White House Internship Program.
President Barack Obama receives a birthday card from the 2014 White House summer interns in the East Room of the White House, July 29, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)