Just out of university at age 23, the new graduate had a choice of accepting a lucrative internship with Goldman Sachs that paid about $100,000 or taking up a six-month assignment with then Illinois junior senator, Barack Obama.
Reggie Love chose the latter, a decision he surely doesn’t regret.
Widely known as “The Body Man” for taking care of Obama’s personal needs and introducing him to Jay-Z by loading the New York rapper’s music on to an iPod which he bought as a birthday present for his boss, Love was the personal assistant and special aide to America’s first Black president for three years before resigning last December to return to school full-time to complete his Master of Business Administration degree at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
While in Toronto last week for the Urban Financial Services Coalition’s (Toronto chapter) international conference, Love divulged his reasons for choosing to work with Obama as a staff assistant.
“I was familiar with the D.C. area, I had studied political science and I felt like it was an opportunity for me and that had nothing to do with me thinking he would be president one day,” said Love. “For me, I looked at it as an opportunity because Obama represented the entire African-American population for the U.S. Senate.”
Love said the staff assistant role was not a sexy position.
“The position is like one rung above intern, but they pay you a little bit of money,” he said. “My starting salary was $28,000, which was a little bit of change, but at the end of the day I was happy to do the job because I felt I was part of something that was bigger than me.”
A month into the job, chief of staff Pete Rouse was looking for volunteers to clear stacks of unopened mail. Love took up the offer.
“I am looking around and no one raised their hand to say I want to help,” recalled Love, who is on track to graduate this spring. “I asked him what I could do and he told me we had to figure out a better way to process the mail. I came up with a process that led to the first digitized mailroom in the U.S. Senate by getting rid of all paper mail and that was in 2006. The nearly 10,000-piece backlog was erased in a matter of six weeks. When I told Pete I fixed the problem, he just could not believe me.
“Pete then gave me a raise and said we have an organization called the Hope Fund and it really could use some help. So I went over to then Senator Obama’s political action committee and did the same type of triage for their organization.
“It was not a glamorous thing in that you are not writing policy and spending every day with the senator. In fact, about 80 per cent of the staff most likely don’t know what you do. But I liked what I was doing because I really thought I was contributing. The success for me really came to fruition when Obama decided he was going to run for the presidency.”
When the time came to decide who would criss-cross America with Obama as his personal aide during the rigorous presidential campaign, Rouse – now a counsellor to Obama – nominated Love for the job.
“They basically threw me into it saying this would work out really great or he would hate you and we will find someone else,” said the North Carolina native, who graduated from Duke University with a degree in political science and public policy. “After two years travelling on the campaign trail, we eventually ended up having a bonding relationship. The president is almost like a big brother to me.”
Obama and Love have a few things in common. They are both highly competitive and they love basketball. While at the White House, they played several times a week and Love coached Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia.
When Obama won the 2008 election, he chose Love as his personal aide, responsible for assisting with the coordination and completion of the president’s daily schedule. It’s estimated that they travelled a total of 888,780 miles together.
Love went to Duke on a football scholarship and was a walk-on on the basketball team loaded with National Basketball Association (NBA) talent that won the 2001 National Collegiate Athletic Association title. The forward captained the 2005 basketball team and was a wide receiver on the football team.
After short stints in the National Football League (NFL) with the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, Love moved to Washington D.C. in 2006.
“The average NFL player’s career length is about 3.5 years and I was making $175,000 a year, so I figured I would have to work when my NFL career was over,” said Love who was featured in the ESPN documentary E:60 for his role in Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. “That was when I decided I should better get started on this now.”
Though he’s not in the White House, Obama and Love still maintain a close relationship.
Last August, Love was a member of the presidential delegation that attended the Olympic Games closing ceremony in London. They also exchanged e-mails after last month’s Democratic National Convention, which Love attended in his North Carolina hometown.
BY RON FANFAIR