By Paul Mullin
Working for the president of the United States has its perks — for instance, traveling to new and exciting places. In preparation for President Obama’s second international trip and the recent G-20 summit he attended in London, one would have to tour all over Europe, paving the way for such a voyage to occur.
As it turns out, that job rested squarely in the hands of 2004 Rider graduate Greg Lorjuste, one of three associate directors of scheduling for the president and the main scheduler for Obama’s trip abroad.
“I was out in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Czech Republic,” Lorjuste said. “That was in preparation for the trip he just took a couple of weeks ago that involved him participating in the G-20 summit and NATO meeting [in France]. So I went there six weeks before he did and then I also traveled with the president when he left the country on [March] 31.”
Of course that all sounds very exciting and enlightening, but what exactly is an associate director of scheduling?
“The easiest way to explain it — because a lot of times you say you’re a scheduler and people don’t really know what that means — you’re the person who handles the logistics for the president, you are the protector of his time,” Lorjuste said.
Lorjuste’s journey to such an important position started someplace quite different: as an elementary education and American studies major at Rider. With his application to Rider, Lorjuste followed in the footsteps of his older sister, Maggie, and his older brother, Reggie, also Rider alumni.
“Those two were very influential [in my decision to attend],” Lorjuste said.
But his career as an educator was not to be just yet. For him, teaching lost its immediate allure after he spent a forgettable semester student teaching and saw some things he didn’t like regarding the No Child Left Behind Act.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t eventually use the degree he worked four hard years for.
“I still think that in years down the road I will go back to teaching,” he said. “I just didn’t want to teach and not give it my all.”
During his time at Rider, Lorjuste was a very involved student, taking part in activities with the Student Government Association, the Black Student Union and his fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma. This was one of the main things that made Rider worthwhile, he said.
“For one, the way Rider always gave students a seat at the table to be involved in different decision makings was very helpful to me,” he said. “Doing all of that just kind of gave me the passion to help others and get involved, so while being engaged as a student leader I volunteered on various campaigns and just developed a passion for it and stuck with it. After that I decided I wouldn’t go into teaching.”
After graduating, Lorjuste took a job with AmeriCorps as part of a fellowship there, and worked with the New Jersey Commission on National and Community Service.
While a part of that commission, Lorjuste met someone who had decided to work on then-Sen. Jon Corzine’s campaign for governor.
“He had asked me to come on board for the last six weeks of the election and from there, after Corzine had won, there was a flyer that went out asking if there was anybody who was interested in applying for then-Sen. Obama’s Hopefund initiative,” he said.
Lorjuste applied for the nationwide search, and ended up being one of 10 people selected to participate and complete a week of training in Washington, D.C., with some of the top Democratic strategists.
“The fact that it was something that Sen. Obama was doing kind of gave me more credibility,” Lorjuste said. “So I went from not really being able to get a job on campaigns to having interviewed for probably 15 to 20 different campaigns that were happening in the ’06 cycle.”
Lorjuste went from there to a job as assistant director of scheduling for the William J. Clinton Foundation, still keeping his connections at the Hopefund intact. This landed him a job working on Obama’s campaign, which led to a job in the White House.
Well, not exactly in the White House. Lorjuste’s office is located at 1650 Pennsylvania Ave., across the street from the West Wing in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Regardless, Lorjuste is happy with the opportunity he has found.
“I love scheduling because you’re involved in everything,” he said. “For a person who has the energy and always wants to help out and everything — I wanted to find a job that would allow me to still be in that fast-paced environment, and politics is definitely it, because you can’t really get bored in politics. There are so many different issues you can be passionate about and work toward. Every day is a new day.”
And that thirst for the thrill was most certainly quenched by the work Lorjuste put in for Obama’s overseas excursion a few weeks ago.
“The experience was great,” Lorjuste said. “Being there and meeting with senior advisers and talking to the National Security Council, going over what each day would look like — which was jam-packed. Handling the logistics of those days was intense, but just being there was exciting and I enjoyed every minute of it.”