Conversation with President Obama
Augustine Joseph was born for politics. When he was seven, he donned a navy-blue suit to welcome his newborn brother into the world. A little over a decade later, he wore another one (black jacket, striped-pink shirt, navy tie, and khaki slacks) to welcome President Barack Obama to North Carolina. As President of the College Democrats at North Carolina A&T University, he was invited to meet the president in late 2011.
“I was first invited over the phone. The call came on a Thursday, around nine at night, and I was in a Wal-Mart. They followed up again a few days later. I got a security clearance, got tickets for my executive board, and then on Tuesday morning, we all showed up at a nearby YMCA by seven. We got seated in the back, waited an hour or two and then this person came over and said, ‘Are you ready?’ We said, ‘Yes.’
“We were taken behind a curtained area. There were eight of us talking excitedly, and then the president walked in. I couldn’t believe it,” Joseph says.
“The line moved closer. Soon, it was my turn. One of the president’s advisors leaned over and said, ‘Mr. President, this is Augustine Joseph, a student at North Carolina A&T State University.’ The president greeted me with a handshake and said, ‘Augustine, how are you?’ I replied to him, ‘I am doing great.’ Then we both looked forward at the camera and took an official picture. I then turned to the president and said, ‘Mr. President, I have to give you something. I want to give you my A&T lapel pin.’ I began to remove the lapel pin from my suit and handed it to him and said, ‘Mr. President, you have to leave here with a little bit of Aggie Pride. It’s important that you have this because you will need it when you come back to North Carolina and speak at North Carolina A&T.’ The president chuckled, and I replied, ‘I’m serious, sir.’ The president then said, ‘Okay’ and I said, ‘Thank you, Mr. President.’
Joseph plans to attend law school following graduation and work towards a degree in constitutional law. He wants to practice law and would also like to run for Congress. Long-term, he’s interested in getting a master’s degree in public policy or public administration.
“I was home in Durham recently and looked inside my piano bench,” he says. “I’ve practiced piano for 10 years and there was a five-year-old, handwritten list of my goals in there. I discovered I was on target for all of them. It’s really about choosing what you want out of life and figuring out a plan to get there. Networking is essential. Building relationships, and figuring out who can plug you in.”
Understanding all levels of the political process has been important to him. He beat out 900 applicants, statewide, to become the only summer intern serving in the Intergovernmental Office of Governor Beverly Perdue in Washington, D.C. in 2011 and was very involved with increasing voter turnout on campus during the 2008 elections. He’s affiliated with many organizations on campus including the Student Government Association, Student Supreme Court Justice, Food Services Advisory Committee, Me: Then, Now, & Future Organizing Committee, African-American & Latino Unity Symposium Organizing Committee and the Peaceful Approach to Conflict Through Education.
He’s also been a member of the Political Science Society, the Supreme Justice Henry E. Frye Pre-Law Society, Model United Nations, and is a graduate of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund Leadership Institute, the Camp Wellstone Leadership Institute, and was a former intern with Democracy North Carolina; a statewide nonprofit that works to advance voting rights and campaign finance reform.
“It really starts with getting motivated, getting a plan into place, knocking on doors and having ongoing voter-education programs. The bottom line is that the future does not start tomorrow. It starts today.”