The former personal assistant to President Barack Obama, Reggie Love, provided a personal take on politics and what it takes to be successful.
Love spoke to CU students Tuesday night about his experiences in politics and achieving success at a young age.
“Getting Excited About Politics With Reggie Love” was held in the UMC’s Glenn Miller Ballroom and sponsored by the Cultural Events Board, a program that has brought speakers such as Maya Angelou, Kofi Annan and Jane Goodall to campus in the past.
Though the ballroom was far from packed, the event drew a fairly large crowd of students, from music majors to English majors to political science majors. The crowd was made up of both Republicans and Democrats, some uninterested in politics and a few of the die-hard Obama faithful.
One of the first to arrive was Nakesa Kouhestani, a 19-year-old sophomore marketing major. She was involved in Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, working the phones in her hometown of Colorado Springs, and was eager to hear Love speak because of his close relationship with the president.
“Where I’m from is super conservative, so I was really passionate,” Kouhestani said of her time with the campaign. “Reggie Love being here tonight is a huge deal.”
Love was 24 when he became Obama’s right-hand man in 2007. Now 29, he recently stepped down from his position to pursue a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Pennsylvania.
“Growing up, I had parents who pushed me and teachers who pushed me on the importance of a great education,” Love said, later telling the audience that his decision to go back to school was based on the fact that he was privileged with such a high-profile job so early on.
“Ultimately, I’ll get my graduate degree and be on the same playing field,” Love said. “It’s less of, ‘He was given something,’ and more of, ‘He may have been given something, but it was given because he earned it.’”
Education was one of the main themes of the night. Love constantly stressed the importance of “capitalizing on our educational system” — being aware of the advantageous opportunities the country offers and being enthusiastic about the learning process.
Love studied political science at Duke University, graduating in 2005. He was also a sports star, captaining the Blue Devils basketball team (and winning a national championship with them) and playing football as a wide receiver. Despite his talents, he said that he always knew that academics would be key in separating himself from the pack.
“Many of those kids [I played basketball with] were taller than me, more athletic than me, and a few of them were a lot better than me,” Love said. “But looking at where they are now, none of them have had the opportunities that I’ve had, and that’s because of my education.”
He played in the NFL for a while after graduating as a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers and a linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys. But he was unsatisfied and jumped on the chance to move to Washington, D.C. for a job opening a friend told him about.
Love arrived in D.C. in 2006 as a staff assistant in the Senate, inspired by his new surroundings and ready to take initiative. But first, he had to prove himself.
“I want to change the world, and they say, ‘We really need help in our mailroom,’” Love said.
Despite his unexpected duties, Love tackled the job with as much motivation and energy as he could. His attitude of “doing my best of what people asked of me” was instrumental in receiving the job as Obama’s aide and personal assistant.
He described his time with the president as stressful but rewarding, prioritizing it over anything else in his life. His responsibilities ranged from finding the nearest breakfast restaurant to responding to emails and letters, and his constant assistance led to missing four Thanksgivings and Christmases in a row.
“My passion outweighed everything I thought was wrong or didn’t want to happen,” Love said.
Love spent about 20 minutes answering questions asked by the crowd, covering mostly light-hearted topics like his relationship with the Obama family dog (not too attached), what Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski is like (tough but understanding) and how good President Obama is at basketball (decent and getting better).
The conversation took a more serious turn when a student asked about America’s future. Love took a few seconds before answering.
“Complacency kills past success as a society,” Love said, going on to emphasize the importance of involvement in democracy by the public, especially college-aged students. He also urged the audience to take initiative now in terms of making career choices rather than wait for anything to come to them.
His speech received positive reviews from a wide variety of students.
“I’m actually a Republican, but I’m passionate about politics and I thought that [Love] was really insightful,” Amanda Pedrianes, a 20-year-old junior international affairs major, said. “I think we can all relate to it. We’re young, we want to change the world. It was so applicable to college students.”
Matt Sparks, a 19-year-old sophomore film studies major, agreed.
“It was relevant to us,” Sparks said. “It’s not often that you hear about the process it takes to become successful with situations like his.”
Love credited almost the entirety of his success to dedication.
“I’ve been to 34 countries, every state in the U.S., and I’ve met about 25 world leaders,” Love said. “[French] President Sarkozy smiles every time he sees me, because he knows how much I’m dedicated to my job, and he respects that.”
“Life is made up of small moments that you can’t put a dollar on. You have to be ready to execute on them and take advantage.”
Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Annie Melton at Anne.firstname.lastname@example.org.