Advance Man

Kenny Thompson '03 lays the groundwork for President Obama's trips


by Kathryn Hopper
Updated: Friday, July 02, 2010

Kenny Thompson '03 was recently recognized as Federal Player of the Week.

In the film Up in the Air, George Clooney plays a corporate war warrior who logs more than a million frequent flier miles.

Kenny Thompson, ’03, could give him a run for his money.

Thompson logs thousands of miles working on Barack Obama’s White House Advance Team, traveling to destinations ahead of the president in order to scout out people and places and work out the details with with local authorities. He recently helped with on-the-ground preparations prior to Obama's visit to the Gulf Coast to survey damage from the oil spill.

His efforts won him the recognition as “Federal Player of the Week,” a program sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service, a group seeking to enhance the performance of the federal government. The honor included a feature story in The Washington Post.

Thompson worked on the Obama presidential campaign and then transitioned to the White House gig. In the 18 months since he began the job, Thompson has traveled to 26 cities in 17 states and six countries.

"The only thing that remains constant is that I'm on the road or in the air and in meetings with a wide variety of people," Thompson, 29, told the Post, noting that glitches do occur.

Samantha Buchan, head of advance at the Department of Energy, has worked with Thompson on multiple events for the president.

"It is incredibly important for our president to be able to leave the White House, to see the American people, to witness events like the BP oil spill and to be able to speak about them first hand," Buchan told the Post. "Kenny's job enables the president to do that."
Thompson's day starts early in the morning and runs through around 8 p.m. each night, and is spent meeting with local officials, scouting venues, planning activities and working with the Secret Service and local law enforcement to help manage security.

"Rarely does a trip or event go by exactly how we plan, there are simply too many variables," said Brandon Lepow, who works with Thompson as a White House advance staffer. "But when there is a change, no matter how big or small, Kenny is quick to step up and smooth things over."

At TCU, Thompson played centerfield for the Frogs baseball team and majored in political science.

"I love this job," Thompson told the Post. "Public service is a fantastic way to affect people's lives in a positive way. It's a challenging line of work for sure but when you are a part of something so much larger than yourself it makes it worth it."



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