On Monday, Nov. 4, St. Mary’s SGA Programs Board had the honor of hosting Betty Currie, former personal secretary to Bill Clinton. She grew very close to the entire Clinton family as she worked among them for years during Mr. Clinton’s presidency. She came to St. Mary’s to share her journey, including what is was like to get to know the former president on both a personal and professional level. Her presentation, titled “My White House Wonder Years,” fascinated the audience of students, professors, and visitors with her witty humor and captivating stories.
Before she started at the White House as a personal secretary, she worked in the Peace Corps, several election campaigns, and one of her professional areas of focus was on civil rights. These different experiences helped her get started, and through being involved with such projects she was able to “move around” between jobs to further her career opportunities in public service. Having these experiences made these transitions smoother, and her time at the White House was very rewarding as a result. Apart from the President, she spent time with the First Family pets as well. Socks and Buddy, the family cat and dog, respectively, were always able to brighten everyone’s day.
During her lecture, Currie elaborated on how her former experiences prepared her for working in the White House. Working in civil rights gave her bit of a head start in terms of knowing how to work in Washington, D.C. By the time she began to work for the President as a personal secretary, she had been previously prepared and almost knew what type of work to expect. Students during the lecture were quite interested in how it was to interact with the president on a daily basis. Currie recalls that former President Clinton was a “wonderful person to work for.” She commented that “he was very religious, and a good singer too.”
As a great surprise to her, Currie’s desk was located directly outside the Oval Office in the West Wing of the White House. Even though she spent more than twelve hours per day, five and a half days a week in her office, she absolutely loved the experience. She commented that if she were given the choice, she would love to do it all over again, with the exception that she does not know “if I could stay up that late anymore!” Even though her hours of work were quite demanding, she thinks that the press secretary and the scheduling office had some of the most difficult jobs in support of the President. One advantage of the location of her office, she joked, was that she was given parking right outside the White House. But on a more serious note, she added that the “biggest challenge was making sure people could not get to the President” directly without coordination through her.
The President valued her presence greatly; often she was asked what her opinion was on certain racial issues. One exciting aspect about daily life in the White House was the events that were held and planned on a day-by-day basis. “No two days were ever the same. We revised the daily schedule all the time,” Currie recalled. But what she enjoyed the most about working alongside the President was the fact that she was a part of history. “It was great because I was seeing [history] happen and I enjoyed being there. I recommend it to everyone.”
Betty Currie still admires the Clinton family. The former President still sends her birthday and Christmas cards, and she knows that if she has any questions or needs advice, she can call, but she tries to keep this to a minimum because of his busy schedule. In conclusion, Ms. Currie accepted some questions from the audience and invited anyone who was interested have their picture taken with her. Sophomore student Orion Hartmann enjoyed the jokes Currie told throughout the lecture. “The most interesting part,” he added, “was getting to hear the personal aspect of working in the White House. You don’t get to hear that side of the experience very often.” The lecture and meeting Betty Currie was such a wonderful experience, and hopefully it inspired some of St. Mary’s students to strive to learn more about the inner-workings of the White House.