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Three LEE members share their journeys to securing a Presidential Appointment

On July 15th, approximately 100 policy and advocacy leaders from across the LEE network engaged with LEE members who have served as presidential appointees to learn how to best position themselves to explore an appointment. 

The Exploring Presidential Appointments webinar featured a panel discussion with LEE members:

  • Ariel Murphy Bedford, former Confidential Assistant to the Assistant Secretary in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and Success Mentor Coordinator for the My Brother’s Keeper National Success Mentors Initiative at the United States Department of Education;
  • Jason Botel, former Acting Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education and Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary of Innovation and Improvement at the United States Department of Education; and
  • Joy Silvern, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Secretaries Duncan and King at the United States Department of Education.

The panel was moderated by LEE Director of Partnerships & Coaching, Michelle Moreno, who previously served as Chief of Staff for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics at the United States Department of Education.

The panel discussion was followed by a presentation on specific next steps to take by LEE Policy & Advocacy Director Mark Johnston.

The session kicked off with a brief introduction of terms unique to the presidential appointments process such as the United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions book, commonly known as the Plum Book, which is used to identify presidentially appointed positions within the Federal Government and the Executive Offices.

Why pursue a presidential appointment?

Ariel: “...when I had that [LEE’s Policy & Advocacy Summer Fellowship] opportunity, I very quickly realized that it was a space I really wanted to be a part of... It’s interesting because it’s one thing to study it and it’s another thing to enter into that world...and to do the work… Pursuing a political appointment was just an amazing opportunity and I think the right next step for me.”

Jason: When approached to take on the role as Acting Assistant Secretary, I was happy to take on that role. My career had been in K-12 practice and I had done some policy work and advocacy work. And so I stayed in the Administration for almost two years, primarily doing that role... I actually really enjoyed it. I think I did good work, I got to meet lots of people... it did open doors for me to work on things I really care about…

Joy: “The people most impacted by problems need to build power to solve those problems and to be the ones driving solutions... We need people who are making decisions at every level who are willing to get in relationship and listen and try to make the best decisions possible for the most vulnerable kids.”

The process & pathway to a presidential appointment

There are no hard and fast rules. Should you be interested in exploring a role, avenues worth exploring include:

  • Consider joining a campaign or otherwise supporting your candidate (to receive guidance about how to secure a campaign role, and have an opportunity to practice & receive feedback on creating work products commonplace to campaigns, take the virtual Campaign Leadership course);
  • Be able to demonstrate concrete results in your professional work;
  • Reach out to people about opportunities to serve (to include a transition team or the Presidential Inaugural Committee). 

The best route to an appointed position is through building authentic relationships, word of mouth and/or connections... and practice patience!

Watch the full webinar below!

The next webinar on this subject will be on Wednesday, October 7th and we hope you can join us. If you have any questions in the interim about the presidential appointments process, or other LEE support, please contact Sandy Brown or Michelle Moreno.


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Leadership for Educational Equity staff is devoted to supporting members as they grow and implement their visions for equity. No question is too large or too small. You can always reach out to your LEE contact to get started.