The greatest achievement of my life so far

Photo by Braxton Maclean.

Photo by Braxton Maclean.

Jessica Barnett


In my first editorial of this semester, I talked about adventures and stories. I advised everyone to set out to create their own and to be unafraid to share it. Over the next two months, I encouraged people to vote and to keep their heads up as the semester neared an end.

I wonder if any of you actually managed to do those things. What adventures did you go on this semester? What were they like? Did you share your story with someone new?

For me, politics, fear and adventure managed to come together in one grand opportunity. I got invited to participate in the first-ever College Reporter Day at the White House. Not only was I chosen to represent The W in our nation’s capital, but I was one of fewer than 50 students chosen across the country.

I was also doing this alone. It was a week of firsts, and it was a week that required a lot of trust. Trust that I wouldn’t sleep through my alarm on what could be the most important day of my life. Trust that asking a person to take my photo would not result in that person running off with my phone. Trust that I could get from the beginning of the trip to the end without a major kerfuffle with the Secret Service or TSA. 

All that trust was worth it. I discussed major campus issues with top officials. I learned that there are people in some pretty high positions despite their facial piercings and gauges. I also learned that there is no one from The W who works on the White House staff.

Now, if you read that last sentence and started imagining yourself on the White House staff, possibly as the first W alum to do so, you are not alone. I did - and still do - imagine the same.

When I picture it, I’m reminded of something White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during our press briefing at the end of the day: “It’s incumbent upon those journalists to say, ‘You should give me more!’”

He was talking about the relationship between the White House Press Corps and the Obama administration, but it struck a chord with me. As academic achievements go, being a part of College Reporter Day certainly ranks high on the list. Even more so when you consider that President Obama himself made a surprise guest appearance.

But even with the President a few feet away from me, something millions – or even billions – of people would love to experience… I found myself almost unimpressed. Sure, it was unexpected, and I joined everyone else in raising a hand high in the hopes that we would be chosen  to stammer through asking the leader of the free world a question. However, it felt like just another meeting with a source. I wanted more.

I don’t want to just be in the room. I want to be the one who sits in the front row. I don’t want to be called on like a student in class. I want to be the one with an exclusive interview that no one else has. I want to be the only one in the room. Past that, I want to be the one who answers the questions, not asks them.

It might not be in politics, and I’m OK with that. I’m a year from graduation, and I still don’t know what I’m going to do when I finally get that degree.

What I do know is that I want more, and I plan to get it.