Dominique McKay graduated from Liberty College as a journalism main in 2009. Her timing couldn’t have been worse. Newsroom jobs had been disappearing; in 9 years, they’d decline by 45 p.c.
“When I left college, there were no jobs in journalism,” she mentioned. “I ended up going back to school for a master’s in communication, mostly to wait out the job market and see what would be available when I got out later.”
Not a lot. After graduating with a grasp’s diploma in communication from Liberty in 2012, McKay utilized for 50 positions in and round Washington, D.C.—only a few hours from household. When nothing panned out, she considered giving up.
“I planned to take a break and try again in the summer,” McKay mentioned. “However then I believed, Oh, I’m simply going to use for yet one more. It was an unpaid internship on Capitol Hill.”
It wasn’t glamorous—the interns type the mail, reply telephones, and course of American flag requests from constituents. However McKay received the job.
Seven years later, she’s the press secretary to Senate Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican senator in Washington, D.C. She additionally serves on the management board for the ladies of McLean Presbyterian Church. In each positions, she’s always giving the identical reminder: You aren’t right here for you. You’re right here for Jesus.
TGC requested McKay about her work on the Hill, the pressures she feels as a Christian, and the way her church ministers to formidable girls.
How did you progress from intern to press secretary for the senate majority whip?
I adopted my first internship on the Hill with one at a D.C. newspaper known as Roll Name, however my first week I received provided a job as a workers assistant for [Republican] Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Accepting the job was a troublesome choice as a result of I cherished journalism, however I wanted a full-time job and it was an awesome alternative, so I took it.
Whereas working there, I used to be promoted to doing extra writing—largely letters to constituents. I wrote about well being care, training, and labor points, and I met often with advocates for these challenge areas. I grew to become an professional on these matters for the senator. Due to that, after I left after three years to work for the Home Committee on Training and the Workforce, it was a straightforward transition.
I used to be deputy press secretary for the Home Committee and loved the work I did there. Certainly one of my profession highlights was working with the staff that helped put collectively and go the Each Pupil Succeeds Act in 2015 (laws that changed No Baby Left Behind, transferring extra accountability to the states). When giving profession recommendation to different staffers on the Hill, I at all times suggest they attempt to get a job working for a committee, as a result of committee work is the majority of what Congress does, and it’s so rewarding.
A few years later, I left to work for Senator Thune, my present boss. I began along with his staff working for what’s known as the Senate Republican Convention—it’s primarily like a PR workplace for Republican communicators within the Senate. I served as Senator Thune’s press secretary, serving to Republican senators and their staffers message on regardless of the legislative agenda was at any time limit. It was an awesome alternative and an awesome honor to work there.
Then lately Senator Thune moved into a brand new management place. In January, he grew to become the Senate’s majority whip. I transitioned with him into the Capitol to proceed serving as his nationwide press secretary.
What do you do all day?
Normally my day begins with sending out alerts to the press about what is going to occur on the Senate flooring that day. I additionally reply to press inquiries, help the senator with varied occasions and conferences, pitch tv appearances, and put together memos and different messaging supplies for him.
Our communications staff additionally nonetheless advises different Republican communicators. They’ll ask, “What is your boss saying about this?” or “How should we talk about that?” and we give them steerage.
We do a number of media monitoring. We’re at all times watching the information and at all times studying Twitter. The beauty of Twitter is you may get a number of data rapidly, and you may get your messages out rapidly. We additionally observe what’s happening amongst members, so we at all times have a window into the place Republicans stand on totally different points and what the media is saying about them.
It’s fascinating—there’s by no means a boring day. It may be tense, however I believe the way you deal with the stress all is dependent upon your perspective.
So what’s your perspective?
While you develop up in a Christian dwelling and are available out of a Christian school, you need to resolve in some unspecified time in the future whether or not or not you’re going to be public together with your religion as an grownup. As I went alongside pursuing my profession path, I selected to be a Christian publicly.
It’s just a little simpler to speak about religion once you’re in additional politically conservative circles, as a result of whereas they might not be Christians, they’re conversant in lots of the features of the Christian religion. However even then, it turns into more difficult as you grow old, as a result of folks begin to distance themselves from their childhood religion or the religion of their dad and mom. That’s when—no matter their backgrounds—folks usually develop extra hostile to the religion.
You need to resolve in some unspecified time in the future whether or not or not you’re going to be public together with your religion as an grownup.
For me, if something, I’m extra of a faithful Christian than I used to be after I was youthful. In a way, God ready me as I went alongside to have the ability to stay within the religion and stay on the identical stage of depth in speaking concerning the religion. God’s faithfulness to me in that regard continues to form my day-to-day life and helps maintain me in my present profession.
How does your religion have an effect on your work?
There are a number of challenges engaged on the Hill. We expertise battle and the nationwide highlight just about day by day. However my major focus is the relationships I’ve with coworkers, reporters, and different communicators.
Most individuals who work on this discipline are right here due to their ambition. Throughout the board, whether or not Democrats or Republicans—they’re formidable.
Numerous folks come to D.C. to make a optimistic distinction, however they get right here due to that formidable spirit. That form of ambition can lead folks to do issues they shouldn’t be doing. Lots of people aren’t capable of see proper from unsuitable when their sole mission is to succeed. One of many issues I convey to the surroundings is the truth that, as a Christian, it isn’t my mission to succeed or advance. It’s my mission to be devoted. That’s fairly uncommon.
Clearly, nobody is saying, “Well, I’m here just for myself.” However once you begin to ask folks probing questions, I believe a number of them begin to understand that beneath all of it, they’re right here pursuing a little bit of egocentric ambition. And once you begin to problem them about that, they begin to assume, I might have a life that’s not nearly me. You’ll be able to start to alter their views.
The reality is, to be pushed just isn’t a nasty factor. Many cities appeal to people who find themselves this fashion. The truth that folks would step out of their communities and do one thing—corresponding to come to town on their very own—is definitely an awesome factor. They’re pondering in another way, pondering outdoors the field—these are pure leaders.
It isn’t my mission to succeed or advance. It’s my mission to be devoted.
However you need to have Christ in that. A significant means Christians may be influential on the Hill is de facto taking down a few of these smokescreens—revealing issues in those that they didn’t know had been there.
To have the ability to affect natural-born leaders and shift their objectives, their views, their final mission, is mostly a good factor. Individuals in D.C. are totally different, however I don’t see it as a adverse. Their ambition is one thing that may be channeled for good.
How does God care about politics?
We’re right here on earth to make issues higher—as greatest we are able to. That features all realms of industries and vocations. Politics isn’t excluded. Some Christians don’t really feel the necessity to get entangled in politics, and I believe it’s as a result of right here in America there are a number of Christians who’ve snug lives and don’t expertise any sort of systemic struggling. They don’t see why there’s a want for Christians to be lively in altering society or making it higher. They’re the kind of Christians who’ve fallen in love with this world and their lives right here. There’s a want to impress these sorts of Christians into seeing, “Oh, we’re right here on mission, not simply to dwell a cushty life and construct houses and households.”
It’s due to the retreat of individuals of religion from the political realm that we lack ethical management. Your authorities is a end result and a mirrored image of the folks in your society. If you would like it to be totally different, you need to be concerned.
Different Christians don’t need to get entangled in politics as a result of they don’t see an ethical social gathering or a bunch that’s actually doing the fitting factor. They are saying, “Everyone is corrupt. I don’t want to get involved.” But it surely’s due to the retreat of individuals of religion from the political realm that we lack ethical management. Your authorities is a end result and a mirrored image of the folks in your society. If you would like it to be totally different, you need to be concerned.
Is it exhausting to maintain an ethical middle?
That could be a problem. As with every discipline, it turns into extra of a problem the upper up you progress. Because the stakes get greater, you are feeling an intense quantity of strain to do the unsuitable factor to remain in energy or maintain advancing.
Once I first began on the Hill, I used to be not conscious of that form of depth and that sort of expertise. I didn’t perceive when folks would discuss this. However as you advance there’s a number of strain to only associate with no matter is going on or to look the opposite means. For some folks it’s inner strain, and for others it’s exterior. Generally it’s each.
For me, one of many issues that helps is that my entire life I used to be a navy child and a minority, so I used to be at all times barely on the skin. As you’re rising up, that’s not enjoyable or cool. That’s uncomfortable. However now that I’m in management roles, the strain is on and intense and actual. I understand that being barely on the skin is the place I at all times belonged. God ready me to not must be on the within or have everybody like me. I don’t need to go alongside so I can stay on the within. Realizing that provides me extra confidence to be devoted, even when meaning remaining barely on the skin.
I understand as time goes on how intricately God makes use of each facet of your life to arrange you for the precise factor you’re going to be doing.
Inform me about your church.
Certainly one of our predominant focuses at McLean Presbyterian Church is Bible training—educating ourselves about religion so we’re ready to make use of it in our communities and within the office.
I work with the ladies’s ministry on the church. Our girls listed below are from all walks of life and really educated—lots of them both have or had high-profile, intense-pressure jobs. Even for many who have retired or are staying at dwelling with youngsters, many nonetheless expertise that very same restlessness and impressive vitality to at all times be transferring ahead. It’s a novel group.
We’re doing a few issues to minister to these wants. One, we discuss so much about how your work ethic can be utilized in your religion life. Two, we’re starting to focus extra on mission ministries to folks in our communities, particularly girls who possibly are single mothers or struggling financially. Not solely is it a ministry to folks in our group but in addition to our church, as a result of it helps reveal to our girls the significance of being others-focused.
I attempt to press upon the group that we’re right here on mission for Christ. So no matter what stage of life you’re in, that’s nonetheless the main target. A number of it’s serving to them to seek out contentment in the place they’re: Take a look at your stage of life and put your entire coronary heart into ministering to your group in that stage. Individuals can at all times be seeking to future—“What else is out there? What’s next?” Properly, really, that is the place you’re alleged to be. Put 100 p.c into the life you could have now.