Executive PA Media ﬁnds out more about what life is like when your boss just happens to be President of the United States. Read Reggie Love’s less than perfect start and journey as President Obama’s assistant
When 26-year-old Love became the then-Senator Obama’s right-hand man he was not a seasoned EA. Quite the contrary: his rise to the side of the most powerful man in the world can fairly be described as unlikely.
After graduating from Duke University, where he was a basketball and American football star, Love went home to his parents waiting for a major league offer until his mother Lynette – “no fan of idleness” according to Love – told him he needed a back-up plan.
So, Love sent his CV off to a friend in Washington, explaining that “I might be looking for an internship on Capitol Hill.” Not long after that he was invited for an interview by Obama’s office.
However during his interview he messed up royally. “Obama asked me lots of questions about myself I didn’t have answers and I didn’t pretend that I did. I knew I sounded moronic and I could tell he was unimpressed.”
Had anyone at that point told Love that he was to spend the next six years of his life crisscrossing America and then the globe with Barack Obama, “I would have thought you’d been dropped on your head as a child.”
But that is what happened and despite his poor interview Team Obama thought Love had “good presence”.
“So, Obama became my boss, and then he became the President of the United States. I eventually became his go-to source for all critical, non-political information.” His job description won’t surprise Executive PA Media readers. “I was his DJ, Kindle, travel agent, alarm clock, vending machine, chief of staff, note passer and party planner.”
In the beginning though, the atmosphere between the two men was often awkward. Cramped in minivans and small aeroplanes, then senator Obama reading in preparation for the next debate or husting, the silence was at times deafening. “Most of the time he would ask me questions I didn’t know the answers to,” admits Love. “About the schedule, about the briefings – I spent most of my first four months on the job saying, ‘Let me see if I can find out.’ I sensed his disappointment. There were times when I wouldn’t have the information he wanted, and I’d say, ‘I’ll ask,’ and he’d say, ‘I’ll just talk to them myself.’”
Things got worse for the fledgling EA. During that first year, Love accidentally misplaced Obama’s Tumi briefcase and with it his keys, wallet, credit card and worst of all his notes for that afternoon’s debate in Columbia. “The plane was airborne, the bag was missing and I proceeded to have a full-blown panic attack. Sweat began to bleed through my clothes. My heart raced like a cornered rabbit. In my head I prayed he wouldn’t notice, that I’d have time to find the bag and by some miracle get it back to him before he realised it had vanished.”
Mid-air, Love managed to contact a campaign member who was also en-route to attend the Columbia debate and who was able to bring the missing bag with him. Just as it seemed that disaster had been averted, Obama turned to Love and said, “Hey Reg, where’s my bag?” “It’s on its way”. “What do you mean ‘on its way?’” “It’s coming from Florida.” “You left my briefcase in Florida?” said an incredulous Obama. Every PA knows how their boss reacts when they are upset. In Obama’s case it is with stony silence. “It felt worse than being reprimanded,” says Love, recalling how they travelled to the campaign office without another word passing between them. “That’s it, I’m fired,” he thought.
When they arrived in Columbia, Obama asked for a private room. “Listen, Reggie, I think you’re a great guy. But if you’re not up to this job, I can get someone else to do it. You have one job and if I have to worry about this stuff then you’re not making it easy for me to do my job. Get your act together Reggie. Help me do my job,” Then he rose from the table and walked out of the room.
The new EA did just that and went on to work as Obama’s EA for five years.