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Confessions of A(nother) White House Intern

January 31, 1998|ERIK SWANSON | Erik Swanson lives in Hermosa Beach

I was a White House intern in the summer of 1994 and lucky enough to meet the president and his family several times. I attended the president's birthday party that year. I found the first family and the White House staff to be truly decent people who really care about this country. I worked closely every day with people who have known Bill Clinton for 20 years, and they all said he was a great and caring man.

There has been a lot of talk about Monica Lewinsky going to the White House late at night and visiting after her transfer from the White House to the Pentagon. I would like to suggest that this is not that odd at all. I was often entering and exiting the White House in the evening hours and on weekends. This is what is required from hard-working interns in such a prestigious program. I also visited friends on the White House staff several times in 1995 and 1996 long after my internship ended. Again, nothing untoward there.

I learned during my internship that many people in low-level positions on the White House staff tend to overemphasize their importance to and relationship with the president.

On the first day of the internship, we were briefed by the then-head of security, Craig Livingstone, about the dangers of engaging in loose talk and wild speculation. Livingstone and various FBI officials told us that the press would take what we say and make it 10 times worse. We were also warned that even though we are "lowly interns" the press could make it seem as though we were high-level staffers with unlimited access to the president.

I was very privileged to have served the president and his staff through this internship program. I grew up homeless and dropped out of high school in the 10th grade. I later received my high school diploma and went to Santa Monica Community College. It was during this time that I was one of the few community college students ever chosen for the internship. I am now studying public policy at USC thanks to hard work and recommendations from White House staff.

Perhaps if we sit back and take a look at the current state of the union, we'll see that there is a lot more to focus on than sleazy sex stories involving an intern. The country is in great shape. There are no wars. There is no inflation to speak of. The future is wide open for all of us if we quit putting those who go into public service through hell with this type of gossip.

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