Ultimately a Friend: Reggie Love, personal aide to President Barack Obama from 2007-2011; Kate Johnson, personal secretary to the President, and President Obama share a laugh on June 24, 2009 at the White House. Photo credit: The White House
As a personal aide for four years, Reggie Love '05 became an expert at delivering bacon and eggs to President Obama from every map dot on the campaign trail -- timing the before-sunrise deliveries so that they were still hot when it was time to eat.
Food became a critical part of the job, he says, from energy bars to gala apples to grilled fish and back to breakfast again.
Being in charge of the President’s meals seemed mundane to Love at first, he writes in his new memoir Power Forward: My Presidential Education, but it also taught him life lessons about teamwork and the value of details to a larger process.
"Even though it wasn’t the most glamorous thing, I could see the importance of food to the process," Love said in a recent interview. "If the guy is up there campaigning for president and he passes out because he's starving or he makes a mistake because he can't think straight because he hasn’t had a proper meal, that would be on me, and regardless of how small it may have felt, I kind of knew the impact was larger than delivering bacon."
Getting meals was just one of the many behind-the-scenes tasks Love handled toward the greater goal of making the President's day run smoothly.
Among other duties, Love was responsible for carving out personal time for the President to relax on the campaign trail (which often involved playing basketball with Love, a former Duke basketball and football player), keeping the President on schedule and fielding calls on the road during routine 18-hour days. Love writes that he also earned the badge of “luggage whisperer” for wielding luggage that kept the President’s suits and shirts wrinkle-free and became adept at decoding the President’s handwritten speech edits.
Ultimately, President Obama came to call Love "iReggie" because, like the Apple devices, he became indispensable in providing information at a moment's notice. And for Love, the President became, "improbably, luckily, his friend," Love writes in his book.
Love said that he cultivated the perseverance that carried him through the White House with the guidance of his parents and Duke family.
"Coach K always says that no player is ever bigger than the team," Love said. "It didn't matter who you were -- if you were Shane Battier, if you were Jason Williams, if you were Reggie Love -- you were going to play Duke basketball and you were going to play with the level of intensity that was representative of the brand and of the school and of a Coach K-led team. Everyone's accountable, and no one got a pass."
In his memoir, Love writes about a moment during the 2001 season when Coach K asked Love to play in place of Carlos Boozer, a power forward who at that time had broken a bone in his foot. Coach K said to Love, a walk-on guard who had been training with the team: "You can see playing time as a forward or sit on the bench as a guard."
Love writes that he "played forward."
That anecdote plays into the larger theme of the book.
“Power Forward is about being part of a community, being invested in a community,” Love said.
The Duke community was an important part of Love’s political journey -- and has continued to be valuable, he said.
Love remains friends with many Blue Devils, including Coach K and former roommate and former Los Angeles Lakers star Chris Duhon '04. A friend of fellow Duke basketball teammate Andre Buckner '03 helped him get his first political campaign internship when Love was a rising junior majoring in political science and public policy. Jared Weinstein '03, former personal aide to former president George W. Bush, advised Love as one presidential party gave way to another in the Oval Office. And when Love was debating whether to go to business or law school, he sought out the advice of David Rubenstein '70, chairman of the Duke Board of Trustees. Love chose business school and earned an MBA from the Wharton School of Business in 2013.
"The value that has been added to me from our community, that is immeasurable for me," Love said.
Looking back on his journey, Love, who went on to become a partner and vice president of Transatlantic Holdings, said that he wouldn’t have picked the path he took. Love had aspirations to play in the NFL, but he eventually switched courses to work on the presidential campaign and to continue on with President Obama in the White House.
"If you’re passionate about something and you are working with good people who are trying to do great things, you can have some success," Love said, "but it won't necessarily be what you expect it to be."