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At the White House, Christine Dickason is Helping FLOTUS Inspire Girls & Boys For a Lifetime

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Name: Christine Dickason
Age: 23
Job Title and Description: Deputy Associate Director of Correspondence for the First Lady
College Name/Major: University of Mississippi, B.A. Public Policy Leadership
Instagram Handle: @christine_d11

Christine, left, in a meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama and her Junior Staff. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

What does your job in the First Lady's office entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

As Deputy Associate Director of Correspondence for the First Lady, it’s my job to ensure that every letter and email sent to the First Lady is read and that she responds to as many as possible. Thousands of people from across the country and around the world write the First Lady to share their own personal story. It's important that our office—a combined team of staff, interns, and volunteers—help the First Lady respond and share their stories even further. I also assist in drafting letters and messages that ultimately signed by the First Lady. No day is ever the same here. The First Lady's office is a small team, so I have been able to help with everything from staffing White House events like State Dinners and the Easter Roll to escorting talent and members of the media.

What is the best part of the job?

Every day, I have the privilege of reading letters from the American public and hearing their remarkable, diverse stories. Over the past eight years as First Lady, Mrs. Obama has touched individuals in every community through her initiatives—Let's Move!, Joining Forces, Reach Higher, and Let Girls Learn—and to see first-hand her impact through the letters and emails is inspiring. Whether it’s a drawing from a kindergartener in Tennessee or a handwritten letter from a WWII veteran in Iowa, these pieces of correspondence are incredibly powerful. And I also know that receiving a letter from the First Lady with your name at the top and her signature at the bottom can inspire a young girl or boy for a lifetime—it's why I take my job so seriously.

What was your first job or internship in your field, and how did it help you get to where you are now?

My first internship was during my sophomore year of college at the Center for American Progress. Interning in D.C. at such a young age taught me so many real-world lessons—from how to conduct myself in a professional office to how to use the Metro system. In that internship, I published over forty blog posts and had one of my articles featured in The Nation. That experience showed me the power of the written word to make change in the political sphere and deepened my passion for writing. Although it’s a different type of writing I do now, that first internship cemented my interest in progressive politics and increased my confidence in my own writing abilities.

What's one mistake you've made along the way and what did you learn from it?

Coming into the Office of the First Lady at 22 years old, I had what some folks call “imposter syndrome” during first few months on the job. I was so worried that I’d mess up that I oftentimes kept quiet even when I had ideas, or asked questions even when I knew I had the answer. I learned that I needed to trust myself and be confident. They’d seen something in me, and they had entrusted me with these responsibilities—so it was my turn to step up to the plate and take charge of my own role.

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

Because the First Lady’s office is such a small team, we often get the chance to offer our help with travel.  Over the summer, I was part of the Advance team for the First Family’s trip to Yosemite National Park.  There was a moment at the top of the Sentinel Dome when it all hit me.  I was somewhere I never dreamed I would be with people I never even thought I would meet, let alone work for. The whole experience really took my breath away.   

What's next for you once you leave the White House?

I’ve fallen in love with Washington, D.C. and now proudly call it home. In just a few weeks, I’ll be starting my Master in Public Policy program at George Washington University. While I’m going to school this spring, I’ll also be working at the Government Accountability Office as a Student Analyst.

What advice would you give to a college woman with similar aspirations?

I think the most important thing for any young professional to be is adaptable and open to change. My plan for life after college was to go straight to graduate school—I was even enrolled in classes! But, thanks to some great mentors in my life, I decided that some time off from school was exactly what I needed. The White House was never part of my plan, but now, I can’t imagine not having worked here. It’s important to stay focused on your passions and goals, but also be open to the idea that the path to those goals is not necessarily straight or clear—and that’s a good thing!

What's your favorite piece of political pop culture, and why?

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. It’s the perfect combination of humor, satire, and in-depth analysis of real-world issues. John Oliver brings to light so many topics that seem mundane or irrelevant at first, but he draws you in with his wit, and suddenly, multilevel marketing companies or charter schools are the most interesting thing you’ve heard of all week.


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