A lot of GW alumni would love to be in David Holt’s shoes.
The 22-year-old literally works in D.C.’s center of power – his desk sits just a few feet a way from the door of House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s office in the Capitol. Holt is the executive staff assistant for Hastert (R-Ill.), acting more or less as the gatekeeper to his office, handling visitors, callers and mail for the Speaker, in addition to doing whatever comes up.
“A monkey could probably do my job, I’ve had more thought-provoking jobs,” said Holt (’01), a former Hatchet sports editor. “But because of the proximity to power, it’s amazing. There are a lot of mundane tasks, but in context they are very interesting.”
The tasks typically take up more than half the day for Holt. He arrives half an hour before Hastert at 8:30 and does not leave until the Speaker leaves, sometimes as late as 9 p.m.
“The hours are killer, and the pay is like minimum wage, but a lot of people would do this for free,” Holt said.
Holt’s day starts off with the truly mundane – opening up the offices, turning on phones, getting breakfast for Hastert – but his days are rarely dull.
If Holt were one to name-drop, he could say he has met, seen or talked to nearly every important political figure. Just the last week, the leaders of India and Colombia met with the Speaker, and Ross Perot “talked my ear off” about Afghanistan, Holt said. Since he has been there, the president and vice president, nearly every Cabinet member and a myriad of Congressmen have passed by his desk.
“It’s really bizarre; I am constantly seeing pictures in newspapers that were taken five feet away from my desk, and I read about meetings that I took notes in,” Holt said.
Being in the middle of the Capitol, Holt was also in the center of a lot of drama the morning of Sept. 11. Things were relatively calm and orderly once news came of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. Holt was in an emergency meeting in the Speaker’s office. But after the plane crashed into the Pentagon, chaos broke out, Holt said.
“He (Hastert) was whisked off to his secret lair, and after that it was pretty much every man for himself,” Holt said. “People were running out of the building, and then we were just waiting for a plane to crash, and it never came.”
Sept. 11 also changed his job. No tourists are allowed in the Capitol, and there are fewer visitors to the Speaker’s office for Holt to handle.
“The environment is a lot different,” Holt said. “You used to not be able to walk around without walking through 200 different pictures being taken. Now it’s like working in the Kremlin. It feels like it’s been abandoned. It’s very eerie.”
Holt got the job in February while still at GW and was able to pursue the job because he had just two classes left to take. He made the first cut from a pile of 200 resumes and got the job after 25 people interviewed for it.
“I was attractive because I had a lot of Hill experience,” said Holt, who interned in Congress off and on since freshman year. “Some of the people had law degrees but no real experience, but they wanted someone who knew their way around and knew how to act around Members.”
Holt’s previously had been an intern for J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), a member of the House leadership from his home state. Now Holt has an intern working for him.
“It’s an amazing experience, it’s a fun thing to tell your kids someday,” Holt said. “Except for doing this for the president, I can’t imagine a better job at my age.”