September 11, 2017 - 6:00 PM

HIPPSter Series: From McCourt to the White House

by Bella Avalos

Keith Maley, former Director of Regional Media for the final term of the Obama Administration, joined GU Politics for its first HIPPSter event of the year on Monday, September 11th, 2017. Maley, who also served as the Press Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, is a graduate of the Georgetown Institute of Public Policy, now known as the McCourt School of Public Policy. The conversation was moderated by Judy Feder, Professor of Public Policy. 

When asked how he got his start in politics, Maley answered that it was "a lot of luck, a lot of chance, some hard work, and being in the right place at the right time, waiting for lightning to strike. It's been pretty incredible." He went on to describe his first job straight out of graduate school as a driver for the 2004 John Kerry Presidential campaign before working for Senator Kennedy in Massachusetts.

This experience made Maley passionate about health care reform. After he came to Washington, D.C. to work as the Press Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, he became instrumental in the media relations for the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“I wish the website hadn’t failed,” he laughed when asked about missteps in the policy, but quickly became serious when asked about the Democratic party’s message. “Our fortunes are tied together. Your success is tied to my success and when you give opportunity, it lifts everybody up." This is why Mr. Maley encourages young people to run for public office; he believes the world desperately need young people to step up and say, “I can do this."

“Did you have a clue that you would end up here?” Feder asked him as Maley encouraged students to seize opportunities. “I couldn’t have,” he admits, but he called his education “a huge leg up." At Georgetown, he learned how to write and efficiently communicate his points of view, something he called one of the most important skills he could have had as he started his career. As for the relationships he formed at Georgetown, Maley said it was "amazing to witness all of the many success stories," and that there was real reward in having a group of people dedicated to the idea that substance matters in policy development.

“It’s hard to generate media if you don’t have something to say,” Maley explained about media relations. He seemed to see a real lack of policy in political debates and found it to be the most frustrating aspect of the current political atmosphere.

The conversation ended on a serious note, as a member of the audience asked Maley about his favorite moment from his time in the White House. He described the week when the Supreme Court held up the ACA and ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, and when the nation came together in the aftermath of the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

"It was a life-changing week," he said. "You work years and years for change, and it happens very quickly."

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