By Victoria McClendon
Ever alert for opportunities to learn more about the world, five LEAP Ambassadors headed to Houston…
… to hear from Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for President Barack Obama.
The event venue was the Amegy Bank, in Houston, Texas,…
… and Ronan O’Malley, the director of programs for the World Affairs Council, was the moderator.
First, Mr. Rhodes discussed his background and education. With his father originally from Baytown, he has strong ties to the Houston area. His father eventually moved to New York where his mother is from, so Rhodes grew up on the Upper East Side. He attended Rice University and received a Bachelor’s in political science and English and then continued on to NYU and earned his MFA in creative writing.
Mr. Rhodes went on to talk about his work after school. He intended to land a job in publishing but soon found himself working as a speechwriter for Lee Hamilton, who was the Vice-Chairman of the 9/11 Commission. In 2007 he caught wind of a senator from Illinois who was running for president, so he did some research and said he liked what he saw and eventually moved to Chicago to work on Obama’s campaign writing speeches. When Obama was elected, he kept Rhodes on as a speechwriter, and Rhodes specialized in International Relations and National Security. At this point during the discourse, Rhodes emphasized that most of the things he’d planned on happening in his life never came to fruition. He always seemed to find another path besides the one he originally planned to take.
He became one of President Obama’s closest confidants during his time working for the administration. He talked about his work on negotiations with Cuba to end the embargo, how he helped with the Iran Nuclear Deal, what it was like for the administration to watch Benghazi unfold, and he fielded questions from the audience about Russian election interference and the current presidential administration.
Mr. Rhodes was a great speaker and so interesting to hear from having worked so closely with President Obama. The LEAP Ambassadors enjoyed attending the event, and the Amegy Bank Tower was a gorgeous venue, but it was time to head home, and that’s what we did.