Karine Jean-Pierre’s advice to young people: Follow your passion
The appointment of Karine Jean-Pierre as the first black woman and openly gay person to become the White House press secretary is a major step forward in representation – and she knows it.
The role of press officer is a high-level job. Jean-Pierre, 44, will spend every day speaking on behalf of President Joe Biden and the U.S. government in front of reporters, the American public, and the world. During a press briefing on Thursday when her appointment was announced, Jean-Pierre reflected on what she says to students who ask her, “How did you get to where you got to?”
Her best advice for these young people, she said, “Follow your passion. Follow what you believe in. And keep that focus, because it’s important.”
“I think if you’re passionate about what you want to be or where you want to go and you work really hard to achieve that goal, it will happen,” she continued. “And, yes, you will be knocked down and you will have a tough time. And it won’t be easy all the time, but the rewards are pretty amazing, especially if you stay true to yourself.”
Jean-Pierre, currently senior deputy White House press secretary, will take up her new role on May 13. She has been involved in politics for some time now: After earning a master’s degree in public affairs from Columbia University in 2003, she decided to enter politics. After grad school, she worked for the New York City Council and later John Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign.
Prior to her position as senior deputy press secretary, Jean-Pierre served as a senior adviser for Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign before becoming vice president Kamala Harris’ chief of staff. She knows the White House well, having worked there under former President Barack Obama and as a longtime adviser to Biden when he was vice president.
She is also a lecturer in international and public affairs at Columbia University and has previously spoken with young people about the challenges of working in politics under the Trump administration, particularly as a black woman and the daughter of Haitian immigrants.
In a 2018 speech at the University of Michigan, Jean-Pierre urged young people to become politically active and take a stand against leaders who support policies that harm marginalized communities.
“I’m a Haitian-American. I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to talk to you about today,” she said, as reported by The Michigan Daily. “But on Thursday the President of the United States called the land of my ancestors, the land of my heritage, the land of my parents, an asshole.”
“If you’re like me,” she continued, “and you’re tired of racism, tired of immigrant bashing, tired of homophobia, tired of stealing from the working class for the benefit of the rich, tired of lack of progress on climate change, police brutality or any other of the many issues, I hope you will agree with me that the time for change has come.”
During her address on Thursday, Jean-Pierre encouraged young people to remember the people who stood by them through difficult times – acknowledging the efforts of pioneers who came before her. “It’s a historic moment, and I haven’t lost it,” she said. “I understand how important it is to so many people, so many different communities, that I stand on their shoulders and have been throughout my career.”
Jean-Pierre also thanked her predecessor, outgoing press officer Jen Psaki, whom she described as “a wonderful colleague, a friend, a mentor over the past year and a half”, adding: “I don’t think that I would be here without so many people, but including her.”
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