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Xavier Magazine | August 18, 2017

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Profile: Grace Northern

Profile: Grace Northern
By Julie Irwin Zimmerman

GRACE NORTHERN 
Bachelor of arts, 2006
Assistant to the Director of the Office of Presidential Personnel
Washington, D.C.

Defining Moment | An English major at Xavier, Northern was headed for a career in broadcasting when she heard then-Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The speech changed her direction and eventually led to her current position in the White House. “I never considered myself a political person until that speech,” she says. “But when I saw Sen. Obama speak, I had a gut feeling that I would work for him one day.”

Next Moves | Two years later, Northern graduated and headed to Washington, D.C., to intern for Obama, by then a U.S. senator. After the four-month internship, she stayed in Washington to work for a consulting firm. “In the fall of 2006, I heard rumors that he may announce his candidacy. I closely followed him in the news and any story related to his anticipated announcement. Finally, in February 2007, Obama made it official—he was running for President.” Two months later, Northern joined the campaign in New Hampshire.

Criss-crossing the Country | From New Hampshire it was on to Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Colorado, Florida—a non-stop blur of work dotted with unforgettable moments. “Working at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver was my favorite experience on the campaign,” Northern says. “It was a great point where I realized that all of our hard work from the primaries had finally paid off—that we had helped Barack Obama become the nominee for the Democratic party. And of course, election night was one of the most memorable nights of my life. After two years of sleepless nights, knocking on doors, registering voters, we finally did it.”

New Office | After the election, Northern was hired in the Office of Presidential Personnel, which manages the selection process for all Presidential appointments. “It’s an exciting, intense, non-stop atmosphere,” Northern says. “I learn something new every day, and I’m surrounded by very smart, hard-working people. The best perk is giving West Wing tours to my family and friends. A lot of them were very supportive during the campaign, and it’s such a great pleasure to show them through the White House.”

Sports Nut | At Presentation Academy in Louisville, Northern played five sports: basketball, soccer, track, cross-country and softball. She started college at Denison University, where she played on the women’s varsity basketball team before transferring to Xavier. At Xavier she played club soccer and intramural basketball and served as the Newswire’s senior news editor and on the student activities council.

Best Laid Plans | The plan before hearing the 2004 speech was to work as an ESPN broadcaster, and Northern sees parallels between sports and her chosen field. “One of the best lessons I learned in my athletic career was that team sports don’t just build character, they reveal character,” she says. “I see the same thing in politics.”

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