West Wingers: Personal Stories of Public Service

Aneesh Raman
Monday, October 15, 2018 - 6:00pm

Rumana Ahmed
Harvard Kennedy School, MPA/MC ’19
Senior Advisor, Office for Global Engagement and Strategic Communications, National Security Council (2011 – 2016)
Ned Price
Special Assistant to the President, Spokesperson and Senior Director, National Security Council (2016-2017)
Harvard Kennedy School, MPP ‘10
Gautam Raghavan  
White House LGBTQ & AAPI Liaison, White House (2011-2014)
Raina Thiele
Liaison for Intergovernmental Affairs, White House
Harvard Kennedy School, MPP ‘09
Stephanie Valencia
Former Special Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy Director of Public Engagement
Aneesh Raman ’01
Speechwriter to President Barack Obama (2011-2013)


Rumana Ahmed began her career in the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence, then the Office of Public Engagement, where she served as a liaison to Muslim American and other communities. She led the Champions of Change initiative to highlight community-based efforts to address gun violence prevention, health care reform and climate preparedness. Later, as Senior Advisor in the National Security Office’s Office for Global Engagement and Strategic Communications, she worked to advance relations with Cuba and promote global entrepreneurship among women and youth. She authored an article named the 23rd most-read online article of 2017.

Ned Price began his career in the CIA as an intelligence analyst in 2006, later becoming a spokesperson for the agency. In 2014, he joined the Obama administration on the National Security Council, advising the President on matters of foreign policy and national security, first as director of strategic communications and later as NSC spokesperson. He is the Director of Policy and Communications of the National Security Action network.

Gautam Raghavan served as President Barack Obama’s liaison to the LGBTQ community as well as the Asian American and Pacific Islander community from 2011 to 2014. Earlier in the Obama administration, he worked for the U.S. Department of Defense and served on the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” working group. Earlier in his political career, Raghavan worked for Progressive Majority, the Democratic National Committee, and the 2008 Obama campaign. Today, he serves as executive director of the Indian American Impact Project & Fund and as an advisor to the Biden Foundation.

Raina Thiele worked in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, where she focused on tribal governments and advised on climate change, Arctic, and energy issues. She was also a lead organizer of President Obama’s trip to Alaska in the fall of 2015. Earlier, Raina served for nearly five years in the White House Office of Management and Budget, where she worked on a wide variety of issues, including tribal legislation, international affairs, and energy. She is Dena’ina Athabascan and Yup’ik and is a proud Alaskan.

Stephanie Valencia worked for Barack Obama for nearly a decade, starting as deputy Latino vote director on the 2008 campaign, and then serving on the Obama- Biden transition team before joining the White House at the start of the first term. Valencia ended her time at the White House as special assistant to the President and principal deputy director in the Office of Public Engagement.

Aneesh Raman was a speechwriter for President Obama from 2011 to 2013, following a year at the Pentagon and two years as speechwriter to Treasury secretary Tim Geithner amidst a historic financial crisis. From 2004 to 2008 he was a foreign correspondent for CNN, first based out of Southeast Asia and later the Middle East, where he spent a year as the network’s Baghdad correspondent during the Iraq War.


Panelists Rumana Ahmed, former Senior Advisor in the Office for Global Engagement and Strategic Communications, Ned Price, former Special Assistant to the President, Gautam Raghavan, former White House LGBTQ & AAPI Liaison, and Raina Theile, former Liaison for Intergovernmental Affairs, joined moderator Aneesh Raman, former Speechwriter to President Obama, to reflect on their time in the Obama White House. The panelists discussed a variety of topics, including President Obama's outreach to underrepresented populations, the evolution of his views on marriage equality, and their belief in the compatibility of activism and government.