Amy Pope ’96 Brings Some Haverfordian Kindness to Pennsylvania Avenue
In a dog-eat-dog world, the political science alumna (now deputy homeland security adviser and deputy assistant to President Barack Obama) believes in bringing people together rather than holding them in strife.
Washington D.C. isn’t known for being nice. And in a time of partisan strife, it can be hard to get people and groups to work together to respond to the important issues threatening America. This is the job that Amy Pope ’96 does everyday, but she’s happy to bring a bit of Haverfordian trust, concern, and respect to the one of the nation’s most important workplaces: the White House.
For over four years, Pope has worked with the National Security Council, ascending to the rank of deputy homeland security adviser and deputy assistant to President Barack Obama. She works on issues of homeland security, bolstering defense and readiness for crises, whether they be from disease, natural disaster, or terrorism. But of course, she can’t do this work alone. In order to gather the right personnel, information, and resources, she convenes with different departments and agencies that each contribute what she calls “a piece of the puzzle” to our country’s security.
“Everybody has some piece of the truth,” says Pope. “My job is to elicit those pieces of the truth and come up with some sort of big picture policy recommendation for the president. You don’t do that by trying to shut down discussion. …The best way to do that is to create a forum [for] different agencies, which have different points of view, different perspectives, and different capabilities. …The particular way we do business on the national-security level is very evocative of the Haverford philosophy and way of thinking.”
Pope was a political science major at Haverford and benefitted from a Department of Justice honors paralegal program, recommended to her by Indya Kincannon ’93, that gave her the opportunity to work in parts of the DOJ for two years as a student. This connection led her into civil rights law, which she studied at the Duke University School of Law, and later, used while prosecuting human-trafficking cases. Her background in immigration protocols traces all the way back to her Haverford senior thesis on European Union migration policies. Eventually, her work on Mexican border security brought her to the White House.
With the presidential election looming and her boss' time in the Oval Office coming to a close, Pope is considering taking her skills and experience across the pond to the United Kingdom or elsewhere in Europe. After all her time in our nation's capital, which she calls “a small town [where] people remember who you are,” she is hopeful that current Haverford students will consider picking up where she leaves off, bringing values of respect, and even “niceness,” to D.C. and, more broadly, the public sphere.
“I think there’s real value to folks from Haverford getting involved in public service within the government,” she says. “There’s real change to be made within the government. There’s real ways to bring Haverfordian values into these spaces to do good, and so I kind of have this hope that we see more and more people come into different levels of government. I think… students should be really encouraged to think about that as a path forward.”
Pope was last on campus in March as a keynote speaker in the second annual Public Policy Forum. Following her departure from the White House in 2017, she plans to return to Haverford not as a speaker, but as a teacher, co-leading a political science course about migration with her former thesis adviser, Professor Anita Isaacs. After bringing Haverford to the White House, she’ll be bringing her executive experience back to campus.