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W&L at the White House

Lt. Brian Higgins can hardly imagine a better assignment than his part-time gig: White House social aide.

In the space of only a few days in January, Brian found himself escorting then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the presidential inauguration and welcoming the Miami Heat during the visit of the National Basketball Association champions to the White House.

A 2005 graduate of Washington and Lee, Brian is a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. He went to Officers Candidate School after graduating from W&L and spent three years as the supply officer on the U.S.S. Virginia, an attack submarine.

When he returned from sea, Brian was assigned to Naval Reactors, the Washington-based office that oversees the operations of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program.

Then, last May, his commanding officer encouraged him to apply to be a White House social aide. He is one of 45 young officers representing the five armed services who serve the White House at many events.

“I’m very fortunate,” said Brian. “The basic qualifications are sort of particular. To be a Navy social aide, you have to be an officer between the rank of lieutenant junior grade and lieutenant commander. You have to be unmarried and stationed in D.C.”

In his role at the White House, he assists the social secretary in support of the President and First Lady during White House events.

“We see that guests get seated. We help with introductions. We have to learn as much about the White House as possible so that we can answer questions,” Brian said. “It’s been fascinating.”

You might have caught a glimpse of Brian on television during the presidential inauguration in January. Several news outlets showed him escorting Secretary Clinton down the steps during a luncheon at the Capitol.

“It’s pretty rare that I get on national television,” Brian said. “In fact, the very best events are those with kids seeing the White House for the first time or when people meet the President and First Lady. Seeing the excitement on their faces is an incredible experience. It’s an honor to watch people have a moment that they’re going to remember.

“That’s the highlight of the job. Just being able to be a very small part of their experience is great, and they’re so appreciative.”

Brian, a member of the Generals baseball team during his undergraduate days, recently completed his master’s in political communications and government at Johns Hopkins.

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