Bush-Cheney Alumni: Five Questions with Jamie Carroll

Learn more about Kevin Sullivan.
Kevin Sullivan
Senior Advisor
George W. Bush Presidential Center

Like so many BCAs, Jamie’s professional journey has been filled with adventure – from working in the White House Scheduling and Appointments office and being on the Advance team to serving at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

Jamie Carroll, who began her time in the Administration as an intern in the White House Counsel’s office, today is on the executive team at Washington Speakers Bureau.  Like so many BCAs, Jamie’s professional journey has been filled with adventure – from working in the White House Scheduling and Appointments office and being on the Advance team to serving at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.  A wonderful storyteller, in this month’s “Five Questions With…”, Jamie talks about what makes a great speaker, reflects on lessons learned in the Administration, and tells us about the time her mother told her to stop wasting the taxpayers’ money.


Q:  Tell us about your work at the Washington Speakers Bureau (WSB).  What makes a great speaker and who are some of the WSB clients (besides President and Mrs. Bush, of course) who do a particularly good job of connecting with an audience and delivering a compelling and memorable message?

I’m proud to be a part of the executive team here at WSB leading our talent recruitment, speaker (client) relations, and event management teams. Working with President and Mrs. Bush is such an honor for our team. I’m incredibly grateful for how much I learn at WSB every day, especially in topic areas that weren’t strong in my background. Hearing about the global economy and financial markets from our brilliant economists has been most interesting. Our speakers do an incredible job breaking down very complex content, making it relatable. 

We are incredibly fortunate to represent former world leaders; business, economic, innovation and tech visionaries; journalists, media and political thought leaders; and sports legends. From distinguished U.S. Presidents, Secretaries of State and Defense, the past five British Prime Ministers, and Coach K – the winningest college basketball coach of all-time (Duke takes it all in my bracket!). I feel privileged, working in collaboration with an amazing team, to bring our speakers to audiences across the country and around the world.

The most meaningful moments we experience are unexpected. An audience member who saw NYT best-selling author (and one of the world’s most influential management thinkers) Adam Grant speak about building resilience and finding meaning in the face of adversity, said Adam’s message helped her cope through the devastation and heartbreak of her husband’s diagnosis with terminal cancer.

Our speakers are storytellers that enrich lives by creating unforgettable experiences with massive global impact. Our team manages over 3,200 engagements annually in 65 countries. Having the privilege to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos each year and the Cannes Lions International Festival for Creativity are ways we are able to work with both our speakers and customers to stay ahead of industry trends and be part of the conversation that shape industry agendas.

Last week I traveled with Dr. Condoleezza Rice to the University of Notre Dame (Go Irish!), where she spoke to hundreds of students in a moderated conversation. Whether discussing Russia, North Korea, Syria, Immigration, Climate Change or China, she commanded a genuine optimistic approach to the dialogue with each response –  in agreement or challenge to her point of view. The young audience left inspired by her call to action to surround yourself with those who have varied beliefs, views and opinions – and those who challenge the way you think.

I love that my work also strives to think beyond the keynote, whether through advisory services or supporting our clients’ book publications and tours. I’ve very much enjoyed learning from and working with the publishing world – and find the workings of achieving New York Times Best Sellers list status fascinating. 

The most rewarding part of my work at WSB is the relationships built with people who daily challenge the way I think – and make me better for it.

Q:  Can you tell us what led you to the State Department following the White House and your experience at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan?

In 2010 a college buddy of mine who went on to become a Navy SEAL, Lt. Brendan Looney, was killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash on a combat operation in Afghanistan.

Brendan was incredibly kind and funny. He was the kind of friend that just being around him made you better. After his death, I thought constantly about what I could do to honor his memory through service. In 2013, I was offered the position overseas serving Pakistan Afghanistan Support Operations at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. I accepted without hesitation (or a discussion with my mom, which wasn’t the smartest move!)

The first few months I lived in a shipping container on post, which I actually came to love. It was simple and easy. I then moved into my house, surrounded by 20-foot concrete walls, barbed wire, and 24/7 armed guards. I arrived in Islamabad following the Benghazi attacks, so security was heightened, especially at high-threat posts. Diplomatic Security worked tirelessly to prepare us with Foreign Affairs Counter Threat training before departure and then regularly while in Islamabad. Learning to drive an armored vehicle, training for hostage situations, IEDs, vehicle ambush countermeasures and firearm safety and familiarization were all very new skills I quickly acquired.  

I was responsible for overseeing all high-level official visits, delegations and engagements. For example, when the Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense would travel through the region, I would be in coordination with key stakeholders to ensure support for the mission was executed, mobilizing inter-office and agency teams.

My time overseas was incredibly rewarding, it was equally motivating and challenging. I was very fortunate to have an incredible group of people based at post during my years in Islamabad who have become lifelong friends. We were limited in what we could do socially, so much of our time was spent on post and in the diplomatic enclave either on the pitch at the British Embassy playing rugby or playing volleyball on our small beach court on Saturdays. I was known to be highly competitive during these games, and fortunately I didn’t report to the four-star who would often play with us!

Serving alongside the men and women of our military was the greatest privilege of my life. They and their families sacrifice much and put the lives of others ahead of their own every day without recognition and simply see it as their duty and privilege.

While I terribly missed my family and friends –  and Facetimed into more weddings than one could imagine –  it was the most positive life-changing experience, for which I am very grateful. The respect and gratitude I have for the men and women serving in our military, foreign service and intelligence communities is immeasurable.

Q:  You’ve visited over 40 countries while doing Presidential advance, working for the State Department, and WSB.  What are your favorite stories from the trail – and how did your advance experience prepare you for the rest of your career?

Advance is an experience that I feel truly prepares you for anything life may throw at you. I’m forever grateful to Matthew Wendel and Therese Burch, who added me to my first Advance trip down to Crawford when I was an intern. The Bush advance world was a family and my lead that trip, Mo Wilkes, treated me like family. He took the time with great patience and detail to teach me what I needed to be successful. There were so many genuinely good people on the road all over the world who took the time to make a newer member of the team better. My most memorable stories were from the disaster trips we took down to Galveston following Hurricane Ike in 2008. Seeing the devastation, damage, and heartbreaking loss suffered by so many incredible people we met made me very appreciative for all I had.

Advancing President and Mrs. Bush’s trip to Rome and the Vatican was deeply meaningful as a Catholic. Looking up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and attending Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica were moments I’ll always keep with me. Advance showed me the meaning of hard work, being proactive, thinking innovatively and solving problems. Advance is never about the problem, it’s always about how you are going to proactively prevent or solve anything that should come your way. My advance experience taught me to rely on people, to hold people accountable, and to always plan for things to never go according to plan.

Q: Do you have a favorite White House story you can share?

Working the transition between the Bush and Obama Administrations was an opportunity of a lifetime. Watching the peaceful transition of power was humbling and a privilege. It was late in evening on the State Floor of the White House January 19, 2009. All offices were packed up and much of the staff had already departed. There were only a few of us remaining preparing for Inauguration Day and the move to the transition office that would now be across the street on Jackson Place. As we walked the empty rooms peering through the front windows over the north portico, seeing the Inaugural Reviewing Stand built outside on Pennsylvania Avenue for the parade the following afternoon, I remember feeling incredibly grateful for the experiences I had and very proud of how President Bush led our country. Just before leaving the West Wing that evening, a few of us saw Jared Weinstein place the letter President Bush wrote to President Obama on the Resolute desk. At that moment, I felt the very, very small role I played ending. 

Q:  Is there a leadership lesson you learned during your time in the Bush Administration that still serves you well today?

Humility. It is not about you. The Bush Administration was filled with genuinely good and humble leaders. I’m forever grateful for all I learned from Melissa Bennett, Joe Hagin and Blake Gottesman. Watching their unrivaled work ethic, grace and poise under pressure, humility and kindness are where I learned invaluable leadership lessons. I have so much gratitude for my time working in the Administration for President and Mrs. Bush. Much of who I am today was shaped during those years by the example that was set by leadership for all of us as young staffers.

My mom is also someone who has always taught me the valuable leadership lesson of humility. I’ll never forget the first time I was on Air Force One. I figured out that if you made a phone call from the plane the operator would need to connect your call by stating “Hello, this is Air Force One, I have Jamie Carroll on the line.” I decided to impress my mom and give her a call. After the operator connected us the first thing my mom said to me was to get off the phone and not waste the taxpayers’ money. She was right.

Tony Snow said it best: “Realize that service is an honor, the president is your boss, and you are just a visitor to this place in history. Work hard. Be honest. Understand the honor of your calling. Leave no room for regrets – for someday, in the not-so-distant future – you will be back where you started: On the sidewalk with the other folks, outside the gate – gawking at that grand, glorious, mysterious place – where Lincoln walks at night, and our highest hopes and dreams reside.”