Women’s Leadership Network NY Hosts Q&A with Danielle Gray

For the Sapient
NY Office, the highlight of International Women’s Day week was our Q&A
session with Danielle Gray, former Senior Advisor to President Obama, moderated
by John Casey, Head of PR & Media Relations for SapientRazorfish.  

She made her
way to the front of the audience with little notice. For someone who has made
such a great impact on recent American history, Danielle Gray came across as down-to-earth
and relatable. After describing her “normal Long Island kid upbringing” going
to public schools and bar mitzvahs, and her early aspirations of being a
cartoonist, she recounted key moments from the years since. Taking us from how
she got to the White House, she brought us to the work she’s doing today as a
Partner with the world’s largest law firm.

Ms. Gray spent two
years campaigning for Obama’s presidency and then five exciting years in the
White House serving in his administration in senior
legal and policy positions, most recently as Assistant to the President and White
House Cabinet Secretary. In just those few years, she was instrumental in the
judicial selection and confirmation of both Supreme Court Justices Sonia
Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. In describing the appointment of a Supreme
Court justice as “law nerd heaven,” and like playing “fantasy Supreme Court,”
she had the audience giggling. Then on an earnest note, she told us
“Justice Kagan was a professor [at Harvard Law School] and mentor. [Confirming her]
was a unique honor of mine.”

Also
responsible for helping pass the Affordable Care Act, she calls this
legislation as a high point of her time working with President Obama. “This
mattered. People’s lives would be better for it.” But before it passed, she
confessed to another unforgettable moment. Invited to a very last-second
meeting about the plan, she ran to the Oval Office in track pants and a
cashmere sweater—with a hole in it. Worse than being razzed by Obama, a staff
photographer snapped a shot of the working session that would hang prominently on
the White House wall, among other public places. Mortified, she recalled “the
photo was all over the place. Friends were sending it to me!”

After
leaving the White House in 2014, she became a partner at O’Melveny & Meyers
in New York, addressing issues at the intersection of public policy and
government. With a true passion for public service, she spends a good amount of
time today doing pro-bono work for the NAACP defense fund and helping to
safeguard voting rights and immigration rights, most recently fighting the
travel ban.

When
asked by a young woman in the audience about how we as average Americans can
make a difference, Ms. Grey spoke about the importance of protests like the Women’s
March and she encouraged the audience to keep it up and stay active, from supporting
our local leaders to making phone calls to Congress. “They really do matter.”

So how
did Danielle Gray become the incredible woman she is today? As women who inspired
her, she cited her mom, Justice Elena Kagan and of course, everyone’s hero,
Oprah. See, she’s just like us.

Women’s
Leadership Network seeks to empower SapientRazorfish women through inspiration,
advocacy and guidance to help them achieve their greatest potential.
 

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