For those new to our series, let us tell you a bit more! Our View from the Top series is when we take a scheduled departure from our regular blog content. We sit-down and talk with individuals who are having a local, national, or global impact in our community. We ask these individuals to share a bit about the challenges they faced on the road to success and advice they would give others. This a chance for Gonzalo Law to reach out to “game changers” and allow them to share their insights with our business and institutional clients. Our goal is to help clients maximize their success by implementing key insights.
This time we start the year off with a spotlight interview with Mr. Kevin Lewis. Mr. Lewis served under President Obama as the Assistant Press Secretary at the White House for five years and currently serves as the Press Secretary at the Department of Justice (DOJ) under Attorney General Loretta Lynch. A Brooklyn native, an NYU graduate, a calculated risk-taker, and one who is driven to succeed, Kevin talks with us about how he pushed passed the challenges of life to achieve his goals. So, let’s get to it!
Gonzalo Law – Kevin, can you tell us briefly in your own words a little bit about what you do at the Department of Justice (DOJ)?
Kevin – Sure, I serve as Press Secretary at the DOJ and I am responsible for managing several DOJ messaging portfolios, including those for Attorney General Lynch. I also handle major announcement roll-outs, crisis management, and help guide how the public is informed about major DOJ initiatives. My work also includes working closely with AG Lynch as she works on rolling out community oriented policing efforts.
Gonzalo Law – Okay, let me stop you there. What is community oriented policing exactly?
Kevin – Sure. So, community oriented policing is the office dedicated to building relationships between the community and law enforcement officers. It provides training and grants, research and statistics to support law enforcement efforts to connect more effectively with local communities. For example, the situation in Ferguson was addressed by this office and the civil rights division.
Gonzalo Law – Got it. Thanks for clarifying. That actually is a very timely and important project for sure with the multiple confrontations people have had with the police across the country. Now, what about you personally? When you look back on your career from New York to Chicago and then to DC, what would you say was your greatest challenge on the road to success and how did you overcome it?
Kevin– Wow. It had to be simply trusting the process. As I was charting my path, there weren’t many individuals around me who had followed the same career trajectory. Back in Brooklyn, I did not know many people who were also interested in the law and public service in the same way that I was. In addition, before leaving New York, I had not travelled very much, so reaching out and finding mentors became key.
One mentor recommended that I apply for an internship with a little known Senator named Barack Obama. I applied to the program and was accepted. I moved to Chicago and did not know anyone. I was working on a presidential campaign and that was taking a big risk. This is because I did not know what the result would be, yet you still have to throw all of your efforts and energy into the campaign. Back then I did not know a lot about Senator Obama, yet I read his book and I listened to his speeches. It became clear that there was something that really stood out about him.
Gonzalo Law: Well, he was a little known Senator, so you would say that was quite a risk?
Kevin: Absolutely! My family did not know him. Not too many of my friends did either. However, I knew that my own passion had to drive my path and my journey. I signed-up with a program that was my foot in the door, yet I had to maximize that opportunity to create the path for that which I was looking.
Gonzalo Law: Would you say that was a learning experience for you?
Kevin: It sure was, I would tell people. Sometimes you start with an opportunity and it is hard to see the end result. You see perhaps your mentor doing what you would like to, yet it is hard to see how you can get there. However, even though you don’t see how it may all work for you, you still keep going. I went to DC and had to grow my network from scratch. Literally, I built my network from the ground up. The public service route has been my passion. So, I stayed true to it. I took a risk on my passion, found mentors to guide me, stayed consistent, and it has worked out very well.
Gonzalo Law– That really says a lot. It sounds actually like a type of recipe for success! When you look back over your career, 10 years working in government, what accomplishment would you say you are most thankful for having had?
Kevin – Working on a campaign to elect a U.S. President was amazing. Working for two attorney generals has been inspiring. Having the chance to work on significant criminal justice and civil rights projects, and even to work alongside AG Lynch who is a trail blazer in her own right, has been phenomenal. I’m very thankful to feel at times as if I am surrounded by some of the greatest minds our country has to offer. In short order:
Gonzalo Law – How have these pretty phenomenal experiences informed you and your work?
Kevin – Well they have helped me to not only work, yet also allow me to observe how things are done. AG Lynch brings leaders and the involved parties to the table. This approach has shown me the importance of finding what works in and beyond the community. At the DOJ, we do not focus on an US v. THEM mentality, yet rather on the common ground. We all want a safe community.
Gonzalo Law – That makes sense. As a final take away point, regardless of the field, what advice would you give those working to maximize their potential?
Kevin – I would tell them what a close friend and colleague, Valerie Jarett told me. When in doubt, when timid, throw yourself in front of lightening. Confronting your fears creates the absence of fear. Dive all in and the fear will dissipate. Always bet on yourself. Believe in yourself because no one can outwork you, and no one can have more passion than you. Trust the process. Know that each step brings you one step closer to your overall goal. Surround yourself with people who help you take your goals to the next level.
Gonzalo Law – Kevin, that was great! Thank you so much for sharing with us today. We wish you the best of success in all you do.
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