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  • A Day in the Life of Anita McBride 

    Anita is often asked what her job entails as Executive in Residence in the School of Public Affairs at American University, especially when she’s not planning conferences for the American University First Ladies Initiative. Read below to find out what a typical day in the life of an American University Executive in Residence entails:

    On February 12, the day started off at the office, checking emails and making sure we have our files and power points ready for a full day of presentations and events ahead!

    We took the metro downtown to the National Press Club, where Anita spoke at the American Women Writer’s National Museum’s 2nd Anniversary event. The topic was First Ladies and the Press. She joined with Patricia Krider, the Executive Director of the National First Ladies Library in Canton, OH to discuss how first ladies handled the media. The audience asked many questions after the two presentations and we all learned new and interesting facts about first ladies through history. For example, did you know that Nellie Taft was afraid the press would find out she played poker and drank alcohol? She was first lady during prohibition time and held parties with alcohol at the White House! Did you know that Laura Bush made 24 trips to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina? Not many people do! The media affects a first lady’s legacy in part based on the way they cover – or don’t cover – her activities.

    Anita McBride at the National Press Club

    Anita McBride at the National Press Club

    After the event at the National Press Club, Anita gave a guest lecture in AU Professor Richard Benedetto’s “Politics of Mass Communication” class. Each year Professor Benedetto invites her to come in and talk to his students about first ladies and the press. Anita talked about examples of domestic and global activities first ladies have engaged in, how they were covered by the media, their approval ratings, their relationships with the press, and how the possibility of a woman president would change the role of the first spouse. The students had great questions and Anita looks forward to speaking to the class next semester.

    Anita McBride in Professor Benedetto's class

    Anita McBride in Professor Benedetto’s class

    Immediately following the guest lecture, Anita had a meeting with students interested in joining the US/Afghan Women’s Council Student Fellows program at American University. Anita is the faculty advisor for this student organization which provided students with an opportunity to get involved and raise awareness on campus about US/Afghan relations and issues dealing specifically with women. The students are planning on holding events on campus to help people understand how far Afghan women have come since the fall of the Taliban and how fragile their gains are in this time of the withdrawal of US forces. They will also get involved in research projects with the Council.

    Finally, Anita attended the 2014 DC Democratic Primary Mayoral Debate hosted by the Kennedy Political Union at AU. KPU is a dynamic organization with great leadership and since arriving at AU in 2010, Anita has worked with KPU to help secure speakers and collaborate on events. The mayoral debate was interesting and a was great way to showcase the enthusiastic interest of AU students in public policy and our elected leaders at all levels of government. American University is the only university that was chosen to host one of the primary debates.

    2014 Democratic Primary Mayoral Debate at American University

    2014 Democratic Primary Mayoral Debate at American University

    All in all, it was a busy day! Each day is different, but they are all packed full of fun and interesting activities that we connect to the First Ladies Initiative at AU.

    -Alexandra Thornton

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    Tags: , Anita Mcbride, , kpu, national press club, students   

     
     
  • Young Women’s Leadership Program – Aug. 19, 2013 

    Anita McBride and Del. Barbara Comstock (VA) converse with junior high and high school girls in the Young Women’s Leadership Program

    Anita McBride and Del. Barbara Comstock (VA) converse with junior high and high school girls in the Young Women’s Leadership Program

    Anita B. McBride is Executive-in-Residence at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies in the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, DC. Prior to AU, Anita served as chief of staff to First Lady Laura Bush from 2005 – 2009. In addition to her work at American University, Anita is a senior advisor to the George W. Bush Institute and is on the board of several organizations including the White House Historical Association, the US Afghan Women’s Council, and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship.

    On Monday, August 19th, Anita was invited to speak to the Young Women’s Leadership Program, a summer initiative developed by Delegate Barbara Comstock, who represents Virginia’s 34th district. The program is designed for junior high and high school girls in the Northern Virginia area. There are about 60 girls in this nonpartisan program. These girls have the opportunity to convene in a casual setting and meet women leaders and discuss career fields such as government, medicine, and technology. The girls and Anita sat in a large circle to allow for more meaningful and intimate conversation. Delegate Comstock said that these events are designed to be similar to the “Lean In” TED talk by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. The afternoon began with Delegate Comstock stating that “women in the world crave opportunities like this, and you can never start too young to prepare for your future.”

    Anita started by talking about how she is the child of immigrants and the first in her family to graduate from college. Her path in politics was not planned. During her time at the University of Connecticut, Anita was enrolled in premed and wanted to pursue a career in geriatrics to honor the grandparents that raised her. However, a study abroad program to Florence, Italy caused a change and pivot of interests. During that year abroad in 1979, American hostages were taken in Iran, and Anita experienced how people were celebrating this act rather than protesting for the Americans’ release. Growing up with a strong sense of patriotism and a belief in American promise and opportunity, she was unsettled by this reaction. Upon returning to the United States, Anita changed her major to international studies and decided to get involved in the 1980 presidential campaign for Ronald Reagan. Her experience as a phone bank volunteer sparked a lifelong interest in political participation. She later on moved to DC when President Reagan took office, finished her degree at American University, and was granted a valuable internship at the Department of Commerce.

    Later in 1984, after volunteering again for Ronald Reagan’s reelection campaign, Anita was offered a job in the White House. She explained that it was one of the lowest positions on the totem pole, but it was a foot in the door, and she saw it as the opportunity of a lifetime. Anita read the mail that came in for President Reagan and identified letters that he would read and respond to during his weekends at Camp David. She explained how this was an important link between the American people and their president, most of whom would never meet him. This job led her to other opportunities in the White House over the next eight years gaining valuable skills in management and administration of the White House complex.

    After a hiatus in the private sector, she returned to the White House in 2001 to assist in the transition of the new administration of President George W. Bush. She held several positions in the Administration at the White House and at the U.S. State Department. In 2004, First Lady Laura Bush selected Anita to be her chief of staff. Mrs. Bush was looking for someone who understood how the White House was run but could also help her develop a broader global platform. At the time she was selected, Anita had been working part-time at the state department, and was the mother of two young children, four and seven years old. This was her opportunity to “lean in” and go full throttle into this new, exciting position. Over the next four years, Anita helped develop and execute Mrs. Bush’s travel to nearly 70 countries, from Afghanistan to Zambia, the Middle East, the refugee camps on Thai-Burma border, and all fifty states.

    Anita’s service in the White House over two decades and three administrations, especially her work with First Lady Laura Bush, helped form her future career interests and choices. At American University, she directs programming and national conferences on the legacies of America’s first ladies and their historical influence on politics, policy and global diplomacy. Additionally, she has cofounded the African First Ladies Initiative, which seeks to strengthen the offices of the first ladies of Africa. Although her path was not traditional, Anita stressed that everyone finds his or her way differently, and that the combination of hard work, pursuing a good education, and taking advantage of opportunities that come your way is a formula for success and professional fulfillment.

    Anita finished her talk by offering some thoughts and advice from her own experiences. She said that every step you take leads to something else, and the pivots that we take along the way are essential for personal growth. Anita stressed that openness to change and indirect paths is so important. Before she opened it up to questions and discussion, Anita said most of all, “Thank your parents, your families, and your teachers.” She also stated that “building networks are important for the rest of your lives, always your best and go above and beyond of what may be required from you, and people will want you on their team.”

    Caitlyn, a student from Northern Virginia, asked Anita how she handled setbacks. Anita said that when you hit a plateau, you realize that something may not be so fun, but you have to make it a learning experience. Gianna, also a student, asked what Anita’s most rewarding White House experience was. Anita said that it was traveling the United States with Mrs. Bush, and “getting to see our incredible country, how people support their communities, and being reminded how Americans are the most compassionate people on Earth, always the first to respond to needs at home and abroad.” It isn’t widely known, but Mrs. Bush traveled to the Gulf Coast 25 times after Hurricane Katrina to work alongside people rebuilding their communities.

    Overall, it was an inspiring afternoon spent with bright middle school and high school girls, Delegate Barbara Comstock, and Anita McBride. The fact that this program exists is wonderful, and I hope that similar programs start popping up around the United States to inspire, educate, and empower young girls.

    • Alexandra Thornton, Graduate Student Assistant

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    Tags: , Anita Mcbride, Del. Barbara Comstock, Young Women's Leadership Program   

     
     
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