Kenny Thompson is on a career trajectory many of us admire — maybe even envy. The Pflugerville High School graduate (Class of ’99) is now, at the ripe old age of 32, working for Vice President Joe Biden.
After graduating from Texas Christian University in ’04, Thompson worked for Austin City Council Member Sheryl Cole until he joined the Presidential campaign of then-Senator Barack Obama in ‘07. As a member of the Obama campaign’s advance team, he traveled to 41 states before parlaying that experience into a job at the White House.
Thompson’s roots in Austin run deep — his father, Kenneth Thompson, is the former President of the Board of Trustees for the Pflugerville Independent School District, a longtime advocate for children and education and a radio host at KAZI. Last week, Kenny took time from his busy pre-Inauguration schedule to talk with his hometown Democratic Party.
QUESTION: Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now.
THOMPSON: I am currently Director of Message Planning for Vice President Biden. I design ideas for new events around a policy or message that the administration is working on. I engage stakeholders — like state and local government officials, companies and groups within the community — to figure out the best way to present to the public what we’re doing here at the White House. It requires me to collaborate closely with a lot of the departments in the OVP (Office of the Vice President) and across the White House, so it’s a role that really encompasses policy, public engagement and communications.
QUESTION: Let’s back up just a bit. How did you come to work for President Obama before you took your current job. I admit I’m impressed … and jealous.
THOMPSON: I worked on the ‘07-‘08 campaign in the advance department. After the election, I worked on the Presidential Inaugural Committee, where I planned several events that took place during the days leading up to the President’s swearing-in. Afterwards, I was fortunate enough to be offered a job in the White House as an Advance Lead for President Obama.
QUESTION: You kind of grew up in a family steeped in activism, but what drew you into political work on your own?
THOMPSON: I have always loved politics. I credit my Dad with giving me the political bug. He has always been active in politics and made sure I stayed up on current events. I vividly remember him taking me to vote with him in 1988. I was 8 years old, and he pulled the lever for Michael Dukakis. Four years later, I went with him again, and he let me pull the lever for Bill Clinton.
QUESTION: Many of us felt a combination of relief, pride and joy this past November when President Obama won reelection. Where were you on Election Night, and how were you feeling?
THOMPSON: I was in Chicago with my colleagues and thousands of supporters awaiting the results. When the election was called, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratification and pride. In 2008, I remember feeling excited, exhausted, and amazed by the history we had just made. But this time around, I was able to really take a breath and take in what we had just accomplished.
QUESTION: What will you be doing on Inauguration Day?
THOMPSON: I will be attending the swearing-in ceremony and a few of the balls around town. My parents are coming into town, so I’m very excited that I get to spend this special time with them. I’m really looking forward to the Black Tie and Boots Ball on Saturday. It will be nice to have a taste of Texas here in Washington, D.C.
QUESTION: The Obama White House has been historic in so many ways and surely has special meaning for you. What will you take away from your D.C. experience that you can share with us?
THOMPSON: The most important take away for me has been the people I have met throughout this experience — fantastic people in big cities and small towns all across this country. I have seen their amazing work, whether it’s at a factory in Ohio, a small farm in Iowa or a start-up company in Austin. The American people work hard, and they are proud of what they grow and make. This is the common thread that creates the fabric of this country, and it’s a privilege to serve it.