Politics, Press, and the President: Sean Spicer Talk Recap
March 25, 2019
On March 25, Wharton PPI joined the Penn College Republicans in co-hosting a talk by Sean Spicer, former White House Press Secretary for President Donald Trump. Mr. Spicer shared his story of discovering a passion for politics and becoming fascinated with the “winner takes all” aspect of the U.S. election process. During his undergraduate studies at Connecticut College, he volunteered at the Connecticut State House and in local campaigns. This led him to work as a field representative on the 1994 election campaign in the Connecticut 2nddistrict, which the incumbent won by just a handful of votes. It was this defeat that taught Spicer the importance of “running through the tape” and past the finish line of any political race. If the Republican organizers in 1994 had continued to campaign until the very last vote was cast, Spicer believed there was a good chance they could have swayed enough voters to win.
From that point in 1994, Spicer advanced through the ranks of the political campaign field. He reached another important juncture in 2000, when he got a call to work a race in Florida’s 22nd Congressional district, for the re-election of Rep. Clay Shaw. Shaw had been in office since the early 1980’s, but suddenly was having a tough race. Spicer recounted how he was hired to help Shaw in the final few months of his race and, by applying the lessons he had learned in 1994, propelled Shaw “through the tape” with a narrow, 386 vote win.
Spicer then traced the rest of his career arc: how he returned to DC from Florida in 2000 to oversee all Congressional races for the National Republic Congressional Committee, before being hired as the Communications Director for the House Budget Committee, and then as the Communications Director for the House Republican Conference in 2005. Spicer recounted his time in the private sector, as co-founder of the PR firm Endeavor Global Strategies, and then his return to government work in 2011 as Communications Director for the RNC, chief strategist for the Republican party, and ultimately, with the start of the Trump administration, the coveted role of White House Press Secretary, and for a time, White House Communications Director.
Spicer ended his talk by reflecting on what he valued most from his time as White House Press Secretary. Bucking tradition, he prided himself on making sure to call not only on major media outlets, but also on reporters from smaller publications, who could give voice to their constituents’ more localized concerns, allowing for a wider range of viewpoints to be brought to the floor. As he put it: “What makes America great is we can have a diversity of ideas, we can be different, we can respect each other, and we can respect each other even if we have different opinions.”
This event was made possible with sponsorship from Young America’s Foundation.