Obama’s “Body Man” on What He Taught the President

US President Barack Obama (R) talsk with

Reggie Love and President Barack Obama

The president’s former “body man” opens up about the “White House Ph.D.” he got just by watching Obama in action.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

An abridged version of this article was published at The Root on March 3, 2015.

Don’t even bother asking Reggie Love about that infamous spades game that he and President Obama reportedly played while Navy Seals were en route to Abbottabad with orders to kill Osama bin Laden.

During an interview with The Root to talk about Reggie’s new book, Power Forward: My Presidential Education, a coming of age story that pivots around the five years he’s worked as a personal aide to Barack Obama, Reggie insisted that the entire spades story was “overblown” in the media.

Reggie wouldn’t divulge any more details about the alleged game (perhaps not wanting to balloon the notion that Obama wasn’t taking the Abottabad mission seriously). But when asked about Obama’s spades game in general, like if the president can, as they say, play his hand, or, whether he underbids (plays it too safe) or overbids (too ambitious), Reggie said that Obama is “a very good spades player.”

“When he’s focusing, he’s good,” Reggie chuckled. “When he’s not, sometimes there’s some slippage.”

“In all fairness, I’m the same way,” the 33-year-old North Carolina native confessed.

Those are the kind of gems that Reggie divulged during our 40-minute conversation about those specials moments that he and the president shared.

Reggie stayed on as Obama’s “body man” during his first term and left in 2012 to pursue a career in business. Now that Love has caught his breath—a bit—and is no longer hopscotching from state to state, and from hotel room to hotel room, making sure Obama is OK and where he needs to be, Power Forward reflects on Reggie’s childhood and his college sports experiences that prepared him for the role. Reggie said he became a much better person having once spent nearly 15 hours a day with Obama.

Yep, 15 hours a day.

One immediately gets a sense of that when hearing Reggie speak. He sounds, well, presidential. I stopped him mid-way through one of his responses and asked if he had undergone media training, or, if he naturally spoke with the same cadence, intonations and a mindfulness that sound eerily like a well-trained politician, or, more specifically, like Barack’s.

“Ohhhh maaan,” Reggie said laughing, “You know my friends tell me the same thing?” he confessed. Apparently, Reggie also developed a habit of gesticulating like the president too.

“I do get made fun of. I never used to have these hand gestures,” Reggie explained.

And then there’s the stuff that Obama learned from Reggie. Putting Obama on to Jay-Z is one of the more well-known examples, but there were substantive lessons too.

reggie and obama

Right after Obama was elected president, then came the task of appointing people to his cabinet and getting them confirmed, a process that Reggie explained was slow and challenging. Some of the people that Obama picked had made semi-controversial comments during press interviews years prior, or, forgot to make mention of a babysitter they had employed on their taxes—fairly innocuous mishaps that people sometimes make, not ever thinking that they’d be asked—by the first African American president no less—to serve in the president’s cabinet.

Reggie described how he advised Obama to chill out and to remember that not everyone always held themselves to the same standards as Obama—a guy who had been engaged in the political process for quite some time at that point.

“You know you can’t hold people to the same expectations that you hold yourself?” Reggie told Obama. “You’ve been on campaigns, you have this down very well and a lot of people didn’t have the same level of scrutiny,” Reggie said to the president-elect.

I then wondered if and how Reggie’s role as Obama’s personal assistant altered his personality? Did he grow leery and suspicious of hanger-on’s who wanted to get close to the guy that’s close to the president? Reggie said that his characteristics are still pretty much intact after the experience. People tell him that he’s still “engaging and approachable,” but, he is very careful about the information the he shares with people.

“You can’t have every conversation with everybody,” Reggie warned.

Reggie made clear that he is well aware, content and at peace with how he will likely never go on to do something “as significant” as work on the campaign that elected the country’s first black president.

“I think that there will not be anything as historically significant that I’ll go on to do,” Reggie said. “I don’t even make decisions around trying to replicate how I was on the presidential campaign that elected the first African-American president.”

When asked if he’d ever run for office, Reggie said that he doesn’t have a “huge desirability today” to get into politics, but did say that regardless of if he ever runs, “being engaged in the process is important.”

“I’m would not try to write the next 32 years of my life.” Reggie vowed to continue to do things that would an impact on his friends, family and community.

If you want to work for Obama, Reggie said, you have to be smart, hardworking, humble, but also have a “decent sense of humor.”

That is best illustrated when Reggie wrote about the time he first bought a pack of peanuts for Obama, having first taken the job and not knowing what kind the then-senator Obama liked. He got into the limo, handed Obama a pack that contained an assortment of peanuts and other snacks. Obama cherry-picked the stuff he wanted and handed the pack right back to Reggie.

“Here you go” Obama said, indirectly teaching Reggie a lesson about paying attention to detail.

“Oh, I got my PhD in the White House. Hands down.”

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The Root TV: Whose Race Legacy Will Reign Supreme: Obama’s or Holder’s?

One guy seems to be playing chess, the other checkers, and The Root staff is torn over whose strategy will fare better in the long run.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This video and an abridged version of this article was published at The Root on September 7, 2014.

I often wonder if President Barack Obama ought to take a page out of Attorney General Eric Holder’s book when it comes to being mindful about his legacy as the first African-American president, in the same manner that Holder seems to be astutely mindful (and adept at crafting) his own legacy as the country’s first African-American attorney general.

It seems as if one guy is playing chess (Obama) and the other checkers (Holder), and to be honest, I’m not sure which of the two is the wiser. After watching these two from a distance for the past six years, I still don’t know who I would put my money on in a poker game.

Although, I have to say that I am leaning toward Holder’s strategy—for lack of a better word.

Ever since he assumed his post as the nation’s top law enforcer six years ago, Holder has been extremely candid: here’s a list of all the times Holder demonstrated that he’s never one to mince words, particularly when it comes to the issue of race.

Then there’s Obama, the one with the “measured” approach. It seems his modus operandi has always been the long game. When people were up in arms about how Obama should have been more stern and upset when expressing anger about the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., The Root’s associate editor, David Swerdlick, reminded folks of the hierarchy that people seem to overlook: Holder gets his marching orders from Obama.

And while that pecking order is correct, I’m still concerned that Obama seems to be resting his laurels—and his legacy—on the idea that most Americans will readily get that. Or that down the road, Americans will remember. Essentially, I’m concerned that Obama is overestimating the memory of the American people by the way in which he chooses to convey his passion about issues of racial justice.

In today’s world, we ingest sound bites, memes, 15-second Vine videos and sensational photos that circulate on Twitter and Facebook. And so I suspect that in this final stretch of Obama’s administration, as people begin to form opinions about Obama’s race legacy—that is, what he’s done for black people—they’ll reminisce back to just a couple of moments: his race speech during his 2008 presidential campaign, his “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon” comment and, perhaps (but not likely) the My Brother’s Keeper initiative that he’s been touting of late. Yes, Obama has done a lot for black Americans (being the first black president is a major accomplishment in and of itself), but I suspect that a lot of the wonky policy stuff like Obamacare and increasing grants for students headed to college might not be on the tip of people’s tongues when they’re sitting around the kitchen table or at the barbershop waxing about “The Obama Years.”

Holder’s race catalog is, again, far more demonstrative. His we’re “a nation of cowards” speech (that reportedly caught the White House completely off guard) is pretty representative of how he has never hesitated to wag his index finger furiously at America for the way in which it has tried to sweep racism, and its symptoms, under the carpet. And then, more recently, there are those heartwarming photos of Holder doling out handshakes and hugs in Ferguson. These are the moments that will leave an indelible mark on the national conversation about race.

Holder’s got his eyes on the prize, and Obama seems to be resting assured that people will eventually recognize his influence and appreciate his approach. But knowing a thing or two about the way the collective American memory works, I’m not convinced that’ll be the case.

In The Root TV video above, I fret about Obama’s race legacy and The Root’s associate editor David Swerdlick tries to reel me back in.

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5 Years Later: Obama-mania from the 2008 Presidential Election

On its fifth anniversary, here’s a photo essay describing that historic day.

On its fifth anniversary, here’s a photo essay describing that historic day.

On its fifth anniversary, here’s a photo essay describing that historic day.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

A version of this article was published at The Root on Nov. 4, 2013.

(The Root): Five years ago, The Root launched to deliver news and analysis focused on the issues of black Americans and the greater Diaspora. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t put our conception into context. The creation of our site in January 2008 was in large part because of the success of Barack Obama’s campaign during the presidential primary elections.

Black Twitter didn’t exist then, but black folks were always discussing and parsing issues, and it reached an even heightened pitch when the Obama family came into the nation’s periphery. We wanted to collect those compelling voices into once space so that we might pay homage to a political force that would forever change the trajectory of politics, black culture and the nation.

The 2007-2008 primaries, and subsequent general election, was an interesting political cycle filled with lots of twists and turns. There were those heated exchanges between a then Sen. Barack Obama and his opponent Hillary Clinton. In the end, Obama etched his way onto the general ticket as the Democratic candidate, and went head to head with Sen. John McCain, a seasoned politico and Vietnam veteran. The selection of his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, was also an historic one for the nation. 2008 was the year for black America, but it was also the year for women. Race and gender are forever sitting at an intersection. The Root aspired to be a space where folks could come and engage in those complex conversations as well.

As The Root celebrates our fifth birthday with a refreshing new look, we commemorate the fifth anniversary of Obama’s 2008 election win, by rounding up photos that capture the magic that engulfed that day. 

The Obama’s Vote

Then Sen. Barack Obama and Michelle Obama

That Tuesday morning, the Obamas cast their votes at an elementary school in Chicago. Barack Obama joked that Michelle took so long to fill out her ballot he wanted to check to see if she had actually voted for him.A cute 10-year old Malia Obama watches her parents from the side.

Observers in Kenya

kenyan observers_election night

Kenyan onlookers, who shared an intimate connection with President Obama, who is half-Kenyan, gathered to watch the election results come in on a small television set in town.

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