Having celebrated the Presidential Inauguration as a member of President Barack Obama’s campaign team, Caleb Campbell ’11 has an interesting story to share about having the courage to make the most out of life’s unexpected opportunities. He will return to campus to speak with students and hold an open lecture on Thursday, April 11.
Campbell will meet with students in both sections of Professor of Public Policy Studies and Political Science Craig Rimmerman’s “Democracy and Public Policy” course to discuss his work on the Obama campaign as a Florida field coordinator, as well as his work for the Center for American Progress. In Rimmerman’s “Sexual Minority Movements and Public Policy” course, Campbell will talk about attending college as a gay man.
When he presented the Hobart student address at his Commencement in 2011, Campbell believed his life was mapped out before him. As he had meticulously planned, he headed to Washington, D.C. and lived with college friends. He quickly moved to a position as a research assistant for the Center for American Progress in D.C. and expected to continue up the career ladder as a young professional in the nation’s capital. An e-mail from a friend changed his trajectory by asking if he’d be interested in working on “a campaign.” Within 48 hours of sending his résumé, Campbell had been through two rounds of interviews and his name was sent to several states to see who would ask him to join their team. He was quickly named a field organizer for the Obama campaign in central Florida – far from the life he’d mapped out in D.C.
In the course of the eight months he served on the campaign, he met Vice President Joe Biden and introduced him at a rally, and met the President. He was part of the ups and downs of campaign life throughout 16 to 18 hour work days. Following the election, he returned to D.C. to help with the inauguration as the liaison between the states and the inaugural committee. He then had the opportunity to go to the inauguration and all ancillary inaugural events.
“We worked so hard during the campaign. For that weekend we were treated like VIPs. It was nice to feel appreciated,” he recalls.
Campbell took a short breather after inauguration and is applying to jobs both in D.C. and with campaigns. Having done both, he sees the positives and negatives to each.
“Working on the campaign was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done and I loved it, but campaigns end. I always envisioned a life and career in D.C. and my friends are doing that and enjoying it now. I’m not sure which I’d prefer at this point,” he says.
Among the advice he’ll share with students is to never turn down an opportunity, keep options open and “Never be so cocky as to think you’ve got life figured out because it will throw you a curve ball. I was given 24 hours to make a huge, life-changing choice.”
He’ll also provide some insight into his life as an undergraduate.
“I’m grateful to HWS for giving me the confidence to be who I am,” says Campbell. “I came out to four people from HWS first – my roommates -and I never would have made it without them.”
On campus, Campbell was a senior intern at the Admissions Office, a civic leader at the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, tour manager for the Colleges’ Chorale, as well as a Trustee Scholar and member of the political science honor society. He also played intramural volleyball and soccer. He says he never had any problems at HWS and never felt like he couldn’t be who he was but nonetheless he lived “in the closet.”
“I want to come back to let students know what they can do to feel comfortable being themselves, and provide advice for the Colleges as to what dialogue they can open to help,” he says. “When I graduated, literally the world was figured out for me. My speech was about life but in the six months my life changed and I took a completely different trajectory personally and professionally. I want to share how I did that with the support of my friends and family.”
Campbell will present “What We Aren’t Talking About: Broadening the LGBT Dialogue,” on Thursday, April 11, at 7:30 p.m. in the Sanford Room.