KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It’s graduation season and it’s not unusual for high schools or colleges to have prominent alumni deliver commencement addresses. One local school is bringing in a keynote speaker who makes national and international headlines talking for the president of the United States.
Monday night’s high school commencement at The Barstow School is more unusual than most of the graduation ceremonies in the region this month. That’s because one of the most recognizable faces in U.S. government and politics is the featured speaker.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Barstow Class of '93, is returning to his hometown to speak to the The Barstow Class of '16 and their families and friends.
He’s worked in the press office of the Obama White House since the start of the administration, the last two years as press secretary. When it’s not the president himself talking to the national press corps, it’s almost always Earnest making the important announcements and answering the reporters’ persistent questions.
"So, having the opportunity to work for somebody who cares deeply about these issues and shares the kinds of values and priorities that I was raised with in Kansas City is really a special opportunity," said Earnest. "And I feel so fortunate to have been asked to be a senior member of his team and it’s a responsibility that I don’t take for granted at all. What I’ve found is, if I can offer some background and help people understand why the president is making the decision that he is, not just being in a position of revealing what the decision is but by being in a position to help people understand why the president decided the way he did, that that ends up making our argument more persuasive."
Earnest graduated from Barstow in 1993, and has worked in national politics now for two decades.
FOX 4's Phil Witt got an opportunity for an exclusive interview with Earnest at the White House earlier this month when he traveled there for a one-on-one interview with President Obama. As press secretary, Earnest is a member of the president’s senior staff and chief spokesperson for the president’s policies and programs.
"Having this brief period in my life and in my career when I can influence the debate so directly is a really special opportunity," said Earnest. "And there are issues that I’m passionate about and things that I care about, too. So as somebody who is proud of my country and proud of my president, having the opportunity to influence the debate in this way is really special."
Earnest says he expects to talk about his White House experiences Monday night when he addresses the Barstow graduates and offer insights into their future and their responsibilities to use their gifts to improve our world.