Inside the White House With James Dinneen '05
As the sun shone on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, six Hamilton students and their professor lined up at the security gate preparing to cross the threshold of one of the most iconic homes in our nation’s capital. More security checks followed but finally, we were permitted access. After passing through the large doors into the building we entered wide white halls with high ceilings and a grandiose stairway that immediately made a guest feel that “they had arrived.”
Our personal tour guide was James Dinneen ’05, the director of boards and commissions for presidential personnel. He ushered us to a conference room complete with over-stuffed chairs, antique typewriters and, of course, several flags.
The students, all part of Hamilton's Program in Washington, were excited to have the opportunity to talk with Dinneen, whose responsibilities include researching and proposing part-time presidential appointments. During one of their more recent classes, the students discussed the pros and cons of the appointee process; so, being able to continue the discussion with Dinneen was timely and informative.
Dinneen talked about his background which included a position with a bank, fundraising for political campaigns, working on those same campaigns and, currently, working as a member of President Obama’s White House staff. The students visibly relaxed as Dinneen took them through the twists and turns in his resume, reassured that experience would also lead them to their dream job sometime in the future.
Dinneen stressed the importance of networking while searching for jobs. He emphasized how invaluable his Hamilton education has been with his current and previous employment and attributed much of his occupational success to learning how to write and think critically while at Hamilton. He also left time for students to ask questions about the appointment process, struggles faced in that process given a largely Republican Congress, as well as advice for future occupations and internships with the federal government.
Amidst their expressions of gratitude as they prepared to leave, Dinneen quieted the group one more time in order to pose for a picture in front of the West Wing, noting as they smiled that he had arranged White House tours for the group in the upcoming week.