CHS Students Learn from Top Press Secretary

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Nineteen AP U.S. History students from Valley Stream Central High School attended a speaking engagement at Hofstra University on Nov. 19 to hear from former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. These students were selected for this opportunity based on their interest in journalism and politics.

After graduating from Yale University with a major in Russian studies, Mr. Carney was immediately hired by Time Magazine and sent to the Soviet Union, as it was then known, where he reported from Moscow as the Cold War came to an end. He was then assigned to work at the White House as a pool reporter for almost 20 years. He shared many experiences, from being in the classroom with children as former President Bush learned of the 9/11 attacks to the campaign trail in 2008.

Mr. Carney, who also served as Vice President Joe Biden’s press secretary, provided his personal account of working in the White House and discussed his feelings about being a journalist and becoming President Obama’s voice. He answered questions presented by students of several high schools.

Following the presentation, the students were able to explore elements of the “college life.” The Valley Stream group headed to the cafeteria for lunch, where they reflected on the experience. Meaghan Adams was personally touched when Mr. Carney spoke about “the worst day at the White House,” which he identified as the day of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. He noted that the officials themselves were parents and knew that even as some of the most influential people in America, there was little they could do at that moment.

The students agreed that Mr. Carney’s experiences as a participant in some of the country’s most important recent historical events were amazing. They expressed that he motivated them to focus on their desires, but always expect the unexpected.

“He was a good model of how, if you work hard and keep an open mind, you may go places you never dreamed of,” said Nicholas Caramihai. “You could one day work in the White House and make historical decisions.”

Jeenia Zaki said of Mr. Carney, “I was very impressed that he spoke from both sides, not just as one of Obama’s people. He was critical and gave great insight.”  

The experience was an inspiring one for the students and will be a memory they can share many times over.