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Xavier Magazine | August 20, 2017

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Profile: Russell Newsom

Profile: Russell Newsom
By France Griggs Sloat

RUSSELL NEWSOM Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, 2006, Domestic Policy Council staff member, the White House, May 2006-June 2007, Student, University of Chicago Law School

 

Lying In Wait | Newsom was in Washington, D.C., on a break from Xavier while taking classes at American University in January 2005 when he decided to ambush Michael Hart, the Canadian who helped craft the North American Free Trade Agreement. Newsom, who was 20 years old at the time, wanted to talk to Hart for a class assignment about trade, and Hart was the guru.

Got Work | “I waited outside for him at an event, and I walked up and started talking to him. I asked him about President Bush’s free trade agenda and asked him to lend his expertise for my analysis, and I was quoting his article to him.” Hart answered Newsom’s questions, then offered him a job as his research assistant.

Feet of the Masters | Newsom accepted the internship, which with his studies meant working non-stop. Hart held a Fulbright chair at the non-partisan Woodrow Wilson Center. “Wilson is a think tank where people spend the day thinking about policy. To get an opportunity to have access to them and sit at the feet of the masters was just a tremendous experience.”

Road To the White House | Newsom met people in the Bush administration, which led to a White House summer internship with the Domestic Policy Council, led then by Claude Allen before he left during a theft investigation. Newsom felt let down. “He was my mentor. He gave me great opportunities to do research and help the domestic policy advisors in any way I could.”

Shifting Gears | After his last class at Xavier the following spring, Newsom headed straight back to Washington for a job with the council. “I missed graduation and everything. I walked out of my last class, drove to D.C. and worked the next day.”

Access | The position gave Newsom access to the highest levels of government. With offices in both the Executive Office Building and the West Wing, Newsom occasionally found himself in the presence of people like Karl Rove and even President Bush. His work involved researching and writing on domestic policy issues such as immigration and stem cell research.

Funny Guy | One day, Newsom was with a group in the Oval Office when Bush walked in. It was the day the story was circulating about his watch being stolen off his wrist in Albania. Bush’s first words were, “Do you want to see my watch?” “Turns out he had taken it off himself. He stuck out his wrist jokingly. In terms of one-liners, he’s the funniest guy I’ve ever met.”

Incognito | “He recognizes me, but I don’t think he knows my name. I was always the guy behind the guy talking to the President.”

Next Step | As he heads to law school, Newsom imagines running a large organization some day and running for office. “This taught me I won’t be fulfilled unless I’m doing something where I’m directly influencing humanity. My passion is these institutions that shape society.”

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