22 Aug 2014
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What’s It Like to Intern at the White House?

Evanston Township High School grad Chase Kimball talks about his experience working in the Office of Presidential Correspondence as one of six White House interns from Illinois this summer.

What’s It Like to Intern at the White House?

Evanston Township High School grad Chase Kimball has a window into the lives of millions of Americans this summer.

As a White House intern in the Office of Presidential Correspondence, Kimball is one of several people scanning the thousands of letters, e-mails and phone calls Barack Obama receives every day. 

While he can't comment on the specific content of individual letters, Kimball told Patch that the internship as a whole "has been very rewarding."

“It’s an honor just to be associated with the White House and to work for a President I admire," he said.

Kimball moved to Washington, D.C., in 2010, after obtaining a bachelors degree in economics from Carleton College. He interned with New York State Rep. Maurice Hinchey, and worked for a year and a half at the economic consulting firm Bates White before landing the White House internship.

Read on for our Q&A to find out more about this Evanstonian and what it’s like to read the president’s mail.

Patch: What extracurriculars, if any, did you participate in at ETHS?

Kimball: I…was heavily involved in the theater program there. My senior year I was the General Director of YAMO, under the tutelage of teachers Tim Herbert and Aaron Carney. Serving as General Director for YAMO may be the most important crash course in leadership I have ever had.

Patch: I'm not very familiar with YAMO - can you tell me a little more about what you learned about leadership there? 

YAMO is ETHS’s annual student-written/directed/performed comedy and music review show. Over 100 students were involved in the show, and as general director I helped guide the creative process, starting from scratch and ending in a full length mainstage performance that sold out for three weekends in a row. It was a very unique opportunity for someone as young as I was. I learned how to manage a team, how to encourage people’s creativity, and how to bring a big project through to completion. My favorite moments were during performances, when the other directors and I would sit up in the catwalks and watch the actors, dancers and orchestra put on this entire show that had been nothing but unformed ideas just months before. Like magic. 

Patch: How did you go from theater to public service?

Kimball: I graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, MN, in 2010. (I took two years off between freshman and sophomore year to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Netherlands.) I continued to dabble in theater at college, but I also got involved in student government and focused my studies on economics and political philosophy. At Carleton I started to think seriously about working in public service.

Patch: So what’s it like reading the president’s mail?

The President reads ten letters every day from everyday Americans. Our office is responsible for sorting through all the mail that comes into the White House and making sure that the President sees a representative sample of what the American people are writing.

Patch: What has been the best part of the internship? 

Kimball: My favorite moments have been during our speaker series where we hear from senior level officials in the administration.  It’s a great opportunity to learn about their path to the White House and engage with them.

Patch: The hardest part of the internship?

Kimball: The hardest part of the internship is commuting to work on my bike in hot, humid weather! 

Patch: Have you met the president in person?

Kimball: I haven’t met the President yet. 

Patch: What do you think of Washington, D.C.?

Kimball: I have lived in the U Street Corridor of Washington, D.C. for the past two years. Once known as the cultural heart of Black America, my neighborhood is a fascinating place to live for someone interested in issues of urban revitalization and gentrification.

Patch: Why did you choose to live in the U Street Corridor?

Kimball: I love the history and diversity of the U Street neighborhood. There are always interesting cultural events happening in the neighborhood; the restaurants in the area are fantastic. I used to love going to the HR-57 jazz club before it moved to another part of town. 

Patch: What will you be doing once the internship winds up?

Kimball: I will begin a master’s program in religious history and international affairs at Harvard University. 

Patch: What about when you finish your master's program?

Someday, I will be a teacher. Either that will happen sooner, by continuing straight on with doctoral work and finding a professorship; or later, perhaps by first transitioning back to public policy to gain more real world experience.

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