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MELANIE ROUSSELL

National Press Secretary, Democratic National Committee

B.S., Broadcast Journalism, Florida A&M University;

M.A., Public Communication, American University

Previous Job Experience:

Communications Director for former Representative William Jefferson

Communications Director for House Judiciary Committee

Southern Regional Communications Director for the 2008 Barack Obama campaign

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Briefly describe your day to day activities and responsibilities as National Press Secretary for the Democratic National Committee.

I am a primary spokesperson for the DNC and responsible for rapid response, which typically includes responding to reporters on the record, putting out statements and fact checks on behalf of the DNC, rapid response on Twitter and Facebook, monitoring and live tweeting political activities such as Republican debates or speeches and participating in local radio or TV interviews as needed. My goal is to draw out the distinct contrast between President Obama, who is building an economy that’s built to last, and Mitt Romney and the Republican Party who want to return us to the same failed policies of the past economics that led to the recession.

What prompted your interest in politics?

I was in my senior year in college during the 2000 elections, and I witnessed firsthand how important elections and political engagement are to the future of this country. At the time, I was working in student government at FAMU, in Tallahassee, FL. As everyone knows now, Tallahassee was the scene of the recount for many weeks following the election. During that time, I worked with Members of Congress and political leaders from across the country to host events on FAMU’s campus to maintain pressure on the FL state house to be accountable as they were conducting the recount. After seeing what happened in Florida in November 2000, I decided I no longer wanted to work as a news reporter, but wanted to dedicate my life to engaging in the political process in the hopes that I could one day make an impact on the future of our country.  I believe working to elect and re-elect President Obama is helping me to realize that goal.

What suggestions regarding networking would you give to those seeking to work in politics and/or as a contributor to the political field?

I would advise those who are interested in careers in politics to get engaged in your local communities. If you are in college, join the College Democrats or Republicans. If you are a working professional, get to know your local officials and volunteer at campaign offices. As you begin to develop relationships with other professionals in politics, maintain those relationships. Request informational meetings and ask for additional contacts. Politics is definitely a business built on relationships so make sure you are cultivating and nurturing them.

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What are the major challenges in your role as Press Secretary for the DNC and what solutions have you deemed best to handle these challenges?

This job is a 24-hour, seven day a week job and being responsible for rapid response means that I must be aware of what the Republican candidates are saying at all times and I must make sure my response is not only hard-hitting, but accurate. I stay connected and I read a lot of news. I check my facts before responding on Twitter or Facebook. And I never respond on a whim–with the 24-hour news cycle and viral media, mistakes are not an option. I have to stay focused and check, check and re-check my facts. But that’s not unique to this job–it should be what we all do.

What would you attribute your level of success to?

Hard work, a lot of prayer and my ability to make lemonade out of sour lemons.

As young voters, what should we be aware of regarding the upcoming election?

There’s a lot at stake in this next election for young people. One important issue is health care. Under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, young people are eligible to stay on your parents’ insurance until age 26. Mitt Romney says he will repeal the Affordable Care Act on his first day in office. Another issue is college affordability. President Obama has doubled our investment in scholarships and financial aid so students from working- and middle-class families can access and complete the college education they need to get the good jobs of the future. Mitt Romney’s economic plan cuts Pell Grants significantly. The differences could not be more stark. To learn more, please visit go here.

What additional advice would you like to offer younger colleagues?

Don’t be afraid to work hard. Don’t be afraid to reach out to more senior people and ask for guidance and feedback–and be open to honest, constructive feedback. If you are already a working professional, reach back and pull somebody else up. Pay it forward–it’s worth it.

Please follow Melanie Roussell on Twitter @MelanieDNC or visit www.democrats.org or www.barackobama.com for more details about the President’s re-election campaign and issues important to Democrats.

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