Karine Jean-Pierre Named New White House Press Secretary

President Joe Biden announced Karine Jean-Pierre as the new White House Press Secretary on May 5, making her the first Black and openly-LGBTQA+ person to hold the position. Jean-Pierre replaced Jen Psaki, who retired from the White House on May 13. In addition to the job of press secretary, Jean-Pierre also assumed the role of assistant to the president.

According to the May 5 White House Press Release entitled “President Biden Announces Karine Jean-Pierre as White House Press Secretary,” Jean-Pierre was born on the island of Martinique and raised in Queens. She received her master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA).

Jean-Pierre previously served as chief public affairs officer for MoveOn.org, a progressive activism group, as well as a political analyst for NBC and MSNBC. She worked for former-President Obama several times, as the Southeast regional political director of  his 2008 campaign,  the deputy battleground states director for his 2012 re-election campaign, and the regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs during his administration. In addition, she has worked as the campaign manager for the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Reproductive Freedom Initiative and the deputy chief of staff and \Biden expressed confidence in Jean-Pierre’s ability to take over Psaki’s position. In the May 5 release, he stated, “Karine not only brings the experience, talent, and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris Administration on behalf of the American people.”

Other prominent political figures and former colleagues continued to praise Jean-Pierre on her appointment to the press secretary position. As posted on Watermark (watermarkonline.com) on May 19, Michael Strautmanis, who is now the executive vice president for public engagement at the Obama Foundation, worked alongside Jean-Pierre in Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and during his time at the White House. He recounted her preparedness, problem-solving abilities, and creativity, stating that Jean-Pierre “always had it covered.”

Additionally, Ester Fuchs, a professor to Jean-Pierre during her schooling at SIPA who later became a colleague once she returned as a lecturer, noted her balance of optimism and realism, as well as her deep understanding of American politics. “She was always very committed to equity and fairness and making sure that people who were new immigrants or from high-needs populations had a chance to be heard.”

Some members of the LHS community express similar sentiment to the figures mentioned above. Social Studies Teacher Laura McCarthy noted that Jean-Pierre was someone who had persevered and been able to alter people’s perspectives of who serves in the government. “Here is another example of an American who has broken racial and gender/sexual orientation barriers,” she said. Junior Lola Sokolskiy agreed: “We need more people, especially those who are berated with bigotry and discrimination, to know it is not only safe, but as well welcomed to be themselves, openly or not.” Freshman Jackie Pakula furthered that “[Jean-Pierre] is making it easier for more people like her, black people, LGBTQ+ people, women, to be in government.”

Jean-Pierre held her first briefing on Monday, May 16. She expressed her gratitude for the position, saying, “I am a Black, gay, immigrant woman. The first, of all three of those, to hold this position. I would not be here today if it were not for generations of barrier-breaking people before me. I stand on their shoulders. If it were not for generations of barrier-breaking people before me, I would not be here, but I benefit from their sacrifices. I have learned from their excellence, and I am forever grateful to them.”