About once a year, Kathryn Grosso ’05 comes back to campus for a whirlwind tour: she visits her former teacher, Associate Professor Gregory Payne, and then gives informal talks to aspiring, young politicos. This week (October 9) she spoke to students in Payne’s Argument and Advocacy class, and met with numerous others for informal discussions.
Grosso started her career at the White House during the Bush Administration and followed that up with a post on Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign. She then headed up the Republican National Committee’s War Room, helping the GOP take back the House, and, since February 2010, has been working for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as deputy director of research and response.
Grosso stressed to students the importance of participating in the Washington, D.C., internship program if they are interested in going into politics—she did an internship in D.C. for a semester while at Emerson, which led to a job at the same organization the summer after she graduated, and every job she has held subsequently. She advised students to keep in touch with the people they intern for—“you never know where they might end up and how they can help you in the future if you remain in their memory.” When Grosso was at Emerson, there was no such program offered and she ended up creating her own internship through American University. She emphasized how lucky current students are to now have access to an excellent semester-long D.C. internship through Emerson’s partnership with the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars.
Governor Christie has a quality rarely found in politicians, said Grosso. He comes across as genuine and down to earth. He “drops the f-bomb,’’ sings along to his favorite singer of all time, Bruce Springsteen, on The Jimmy Fallon Show, and says things like “What you see is what you get…you may not always like what you hear, but you will always know where I stand.” Grosso made this abundantly clear to her audience with the clips she played of the Governor speaking candidly and humorously to various audiences. Her face lit up as she spoke about Christie, a man she believes is an honest and refreshing force in politics today. “He’s not afraid to connect to pop culture…to tweet silly things…he is very ‘New Jersey’. Many people look at him and feel they can relate to him.” At the same time, he showed that he is capable of gravitas. In the last clip Grosso played, Christie tells a moving tale of his deceased mother and what an inspiration she was and continues to be for Christie. He often tells the story, Grosso admitted, as it tends to go over well with crowds, but also, she stressed, because “he means it…every word.”
In response to Payne’s question on the importance of performance in the political sphere, Grosso said, “The Governor is a great performer because he always knows his audience…he doesn’t pigeonhole himself but can appeal to a wide range of people. In that way he bridges the gap between performance and politics.”
For students aspiring to political careers, Grosso served as a solid role model. She made it clear that the opportunities are out there, once you put in the work and gain the skills.