GoPack.com managing editor Tim Peeler ’87 went to Washington, D.C., on Monday to talk with White House press secretary Robert Gibbs ’92, who was a goalkeeper for the Wolfpack men’s soccer team when he was at NC State. We asked Tim to sneak in a few questions for us (excerpts are below). You can read his story on Gibbs at GoPack.com.
What has been the most rewarding part of what you have been through since you began working with Barack Obama in 2004?
The nice thing is working in [the White House], you do get a chance to see the real-world impact of something you have been involved in that helps people’s lives, which is always tremendously rewarding. The last six years, you couldn’t have sold a movie script about this. No one could have believed it. I think, in so many ways, you realize that it is a unique opportunity and a unique chance to see history from a unique seat.
What’s the job like?
Nothing’s like the pace of working [in the White House]. Nothing compares to the enormous number of things that come at you. It takes a while to realize that if problems get to this level, [they’re] really hard to solve. [Y]ou realize that if any of them had remotely easy answers they would never have gotten here. The sheer pace and enormity of it is hard to believe.
Do you ever forget that your morning commute ends up in the West Wing of the White House?
I will say this — we try not to get complacent. It probably happens once a week, going into the Oval Office, that I think: “Wow, I am here.” My dad was here over the 4th of July and he had not been up here since I started working here. I can remember taking him around and all the lights were off. I asked the Secret Service agent if he could turn the lights on in the Oval Office for a few minutes. My dad wouldn’t have known where he was walking, except that he was following me. He walks through this door and the lights come on and it dawns on him where he is. His eyes were big and wide. It was a pretty impressive moment.
The stress of this office takes its toll. How long can you do it?
One of the first days I drove into work, coming in and seeing the South Lawn, I looked over and there is the White House. I remember telling myself if I ever drove in here and didn’t think “Wow, I work at the White House,” that would be the perfect day to give somebody else the chance to do this. Regardless of your political party, regardless of how you came or got here, if you don’t have a tremendous respect for the people who sat in this office or worked in this White House for two different centuries . . . if that ever gets really lost on you, you should go back out and give somebody else a chance. I haven’t reached that day yet.
(Photograph by Roger Winstead ’87)