Clayton Armstrong wasn't always a political buff, but after two internships on Capitol Hill and meeting Barack and Michelle Obama, the UA freshman, who is from Washington, D.C., will be sitting next to the first lady at the State of the Union on Wednesday.
As a participant in the D.C. Scholars internship program during the past summer, he got the chance to see the way government runs from an insider's perspective. A political science major who aspires to work in public service in the Washington, D.C., area, Armstrong is excited to return to his hometown to hear the president's speech.
""I'm really excited to meet Michelle again,"" Armstrong said. ""To meet the people who are the faces of your country is really exciting. Plus, to hear the speech in person is going to be great,"" he said.
About a dozen Washington, D.C., public high school graduates got the chance to work in the White House for a summer with Obama in the new internship program. Armstrong was placed in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, which works as a liaison between the White House and local governments.
In the program, the interns meet with college counterparts, work with a White House mentor and get to meet and greet with White House power players.
""It was the most amazing experience of my life,"" Armstrong said. ""Sometimes, when you are there, you don't really recognize what you are involved in.""
Armstrong noted that some of the most interesting aspects of the job were the people he met while working in the White House.
""Your vision of who works in the White House is a bunch of old people. But a lot of them are young and enthusiastic,"" he said. ""They view you not only as a colleague but as a person.""
Armstrong had worked previously with Rep. Chris Van Hollen when he heard about the D.C. Scholars internship program.
""I figured I should apply because it sounded like a really great way to get more involved in politics,"" he said. ""It was rigorous, but I got in.""
Armstrong encouraged other people entering the program to ""embrace the moment and build networks.""
""They will last you the rest of your life,"" he said.
Armstrong will be heading back to his hometown without fanfare.
""Nobody knows, actually. They told me to keep it pretty quiet so not even my parents know,"" he said. ""They won't know until they have to pick me up from the airport.""