FIVE QUESTIONS WITH Rhonda Houston
What is your fondest memory from your time working in the Bush Administration?
President and Mrs. Bush always encouraged staff to share the White House experience with friends and family. My first position in the White House Visitor’s Office allowed me to be a daily witness to everyday citizens experiencing the White House with their own family and friends. People were so excited to enter through those doors and walk along the halls of history. And the fact that thousands of people experienced the White House during the business day, regardless of whether President and Mr. Bush were home, made it even more remarkable to witness.
At the Bush Center you’ve recently stepped into the role of Director, Internal Communications and Culture, which includes creating opportunities to build the organization’s culture and overseeing volunteer and public service opportunities for staff. What are you most excited about introducing or achieving in this new position?
In his 2001 Inaugural Address, President Bush said that “We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests, and teach us what it means to be citizens.” We truly live this through the work we do at the Bush Center and I’m excited about creating opportunities for our staff to extend this creed beyond our official work through actively supporting, with our time and other ways, causes and organizations in our local Dallas area community.
You’ve had the opportunity to work closely with leaders across a range of sectors – from the White House, to the Texas Rangers Baseball Club, to private corporations. Have you seen a common trait or value that makes for a great leader, regardless of arena?
Two themes have been present in the great leaders I have been blessed to learn from: they surround themselves with other great leaders who aren’t afraid to voice an opposing view, and they truly value people at every level of the organization.
You’ve been an active voice in the Bush-Cheney Alumni group in Dallas and in the Reunion that took place this year. What value do you find in staying connected with your fellow alums in the area?
The value in staying connected is in maintaining relationships with a group of people with such diverse career and life experiences. As alumni, we forged friendships and were united through a common purpose during some of the most difficult times our country has faced, and yet we emerged to take very divergent roads that have lead each of us to new and different experiences, views, and opinions. I find it extremely valuable to have such diversity in individuals with whom I have a strong bond of friendship.
What is your proudest moment from your years in the Administration?
Each day I walked into the White House as a staff member of the Bush Administration was my proudest moment. As an African-American woman from the Oak Cliff area of Dallas, Texas, and the first person on either side of my family to graduate from college, I didn’t take lightly the fact that I was in a position that my grandparents would have never imagined for their granddaughter. My maternal grandparents lived to see me work for President Bush, and one may have even cast a vote for him, so my pride was in making sure their pride in me was never sullied, either by the work that I did or by the administration that I was a part of.
BONUS Question: Who are you rooting for in the World Series? (Other than Rangers 2017, of course!)
As a Texas Rangers fan, I’m still hurting from the first round sweep. But, if not the Rangers….Go Cubs!