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Polis Recap: An Evening with Huma Abedin & Reggie Love

Polis Recap: An Evening with Huma Abedin & Reggie Love

By Rosa Golchin ('24)

On Wednesday, February 21st, Polis: Center for Politics hosted Polis Distinguished Fellows Huma Abedin and Reggie Love (Duke '05) to discuss their respective memoirs, Both/And and Power Forward. The evening focused on the Distinguished Fellows' pathways to politics and how they became confidantes for the prolific political figures of former President Obama and Hillary Clinton, respectively. The two reflected on their careers in politics and public service, offered advice for being a valued team member, and shared tips for cultivating trust in a fraught political landscape.

Dr. Rose introduced Abedin and Love as “two extremely accomplished public servants” who are “prominent figures who bring their expertise in policy, advocacy, journalism, and other areas” to the Duke community. Huma Abedin is a top aide and longtime advisor to Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She began her political career as an intern in First Lady Hillary Clinton’s office in 1996 and went on to serve as traveling chief of staff for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. In 2009, she was appointed deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of State. She currently serves as Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff. Reggie Love is a Senior Advisor to Apollo Global Management and a former personal aide to President Barack Obama from 2009-2011 where he was responsible for assisting with the coordination and completion of the President’s daily schedule as well as coordinating with other White House offices to set up long and medium range planning. Love also serves on the boards of Cox Media Group, Blade Air Mobility, National Summer Learning Association, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Organizing for Action, MilitaryBowl Committee, Teamworks, and The New Renaissance. This marks a return to Duke for him, as a former forward and team captain for Duke men’s basketball.

Dr. Rose started the conversation by asking the fellows about their advice and experiences in serving as a “political team member.” Love offered “patience and passion,” pointing to Congressman David Price, the 2023 Polis Distinguished Fellow, as an example figure of civil service. He offered examples of impactful policies that unfold in the long-term, and urged patience in the face of the common inclination in the current political environment towards immediate results. Drawing on his experience as a basketball player, he advised, “Be resilient enough to know it won’t happen overnight and it may take a couple losses or two before you get there.” Abedin doubled down on the role of passion, pointing to her internship at the White House that was a defining moment in her political trajectory. She also recognized that, “So much of politics is fate and luck and hard work” and urged students to grasp the opportunities before them, even when they may take the shape of untraditional tasks as they build relationships of trust that can be parlayed into greater favorability in political advising. 

Dr. Rose continued on this theme of trust and asked Abedin and Love to reflect on the process of becoming valued members of the teams to which they belong. Abedin began her response by noting that “We both worked for really dynamic, historic public servants in a way that there is never going to be another Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama” to underscore the unique political moment in which the two found themselves. In her role, she mentioned having to assume the more antagonistic roles that support the public persona of “leaders who are often put on pedestals as lofty politicians.” Her path to becoming a trusted team member involved the delicate navigation of being the first line of defense and representative for these political leaders, a process that took time. Love applauded Abedin for her mastery of this balance, and even remarked that he was “lucky to have a person like Huma to talk to about these things.” He learned from Abedin’s approaches in her own work to manage former President Barack Obama’s growing public persona. As for trust, Love remarked, “trust is essentially you spending the time showing you are listening and showing that you are trying to achieve something that is bigger than yourself alongside somebody else.” Both fellows acknowledged that trust is developed in the most tense and difficult of times, with Love reflecting, “It’s easy to show up and play hard when you’re winning… you really learn about yourself when it’s the other way around.”

Following the event, Huma Abedin and Reggie Love signed copies of their respective memoirs, Both/And and Power Forward.