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Reflections by a Hispanic in the Obama Administration

Teresa Chaurand writes about her years serving under President Obama: "I met so many incredible people who shared the President’s vision to make meaningful change ... from seeking ways to implement comprehensive immigration reform to gun control."
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Teresa Chaurand is former Special Assistant to the President, Director of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, the Peace Corps
2017-01-21T17:49:49-05:00
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Teresa Chaurand and family at the White House. Crédito: Teresa Chaurand/Univision

It is nearly impossible to put into words what President Obama and his Administration has meant to me and my family.

In 2009 my husband Enrique was asked to serve as a staff member of the Department of Labor for Secretary Hilda Solis. We thought long and hard about what a move would mean for our family, as at that time we had five young children under the age of eight.

Both sides of our family lived in Kansas City and we had owned a communications and public relations firm. At the time, it seemed like an impossible decision to make. But as I look back on that time, I can honestly say that it was the best decision we ever made.

Enrique had the chance to work for the first Latina Labor Secretary under the first African American President. And little did I know at the time that I would be afforded the opportunity as well to serve under such a consequential President.

I joined the Administration in 2011, and was asked to serve in a new position that would ensure that constituents from all backgrounds would have a way to connect with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel (PPO).

I, along with my colleagues were tasked with ensuring that the staff in the Administration and within our agencies were a true reflection of the diverse communities that we were sworn to serve. And I’m proud to say that this was a priority of the President.

During my time in PPO, I met so many incredible people who shared the President’s vision to make meaningful change. Not only those who applied and were eager to serve, but those who were fortunate enough to be appointed. From seeking ways to implement comprehensive immigration reform to gun control; to educational opportunities for all to creating jobs and keeping our nation safe and secure.

Each of these special people sacrificed their time away from family, or perhaps like my family moved across the country because they believed in President Obama’s vision for our country. We all joined the Obama family because we knew there was so much work to do, and we were optimistic because we knew we could accomplish so much together with such an inspiring leader -- President Obama.

What will I remember most about President Obama? I will remember a President who believed in true inclusiveness. An Administration where people’s voices were heard, where policies applied to all not a few. A vision for a future that included innovation, lifting up communities who need support while embracing immigrant communities rather than isolating them.

I will always remember a President who motivated people to get involved and not sit back and whine. I joined this Administration because so many of the policies the President planned to address impacted my family and my community. Issues like keeping our country safe, affordable healthcare, immigration reform, protecting our environment, supporting small businesses, helping people hold onto their homes and providing quality jobs.

I have to mention one of my fondest memories with the President. I had the opportunity to bring my family to the White House for a photo in the Oval office. Up to this point, my kids understood the work I did and of course had great admiration for the President and First Lady. However, this opportunity was truly magnified because we had an audience with the President.

In the photo you can see that my daughter spoke directly to the President. He was completely focused on her and what she had to say. He then went on to speak to each of my children, which is a moment that I will never forget. My daughter has this picture in her room and I told her that whenever she feels intimidated or too shy to speak up or needs motivation, remember this photo and the moment you had to speak with the President.

I absolutely plan to continue to serve in some way and to stay engaged. I hope that I have passed this same lesson onto my kids. For most of my children, they will remember an African American President as their first president and I think that is truly remarkable.

President Obama set the standard for excellence and grace under pressure. It has truly been an honor and a humbling experience to have served in the Obama Administration.

Teresa Chaurand is former Special Assistant to the President, Director of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, the Peace Corps.

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