Diana Zicklin '96
Diana Zicklin '96 makes her mark as a member of the Gore campaign team
Editor's note: At the height of the election season, Kenyon News Director Shawn Presley, associate editor of the Bulletin, interviewed Diana S. Zicklin '96, a senior scheduler for Vice President Al Gore in his Democratic presidential campaign. While Zicklin wasn't on the victorious team, we enjoyed her story, which we decided to share.
There's a buzz coming over the telephone from the Gore-Lieberman 2000 campaign headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. It's the hum of voices, of cheers and applause, and the excitement of people hard at work for a cause.
Amid the buzz is Diana S. Zicklin '96, a senior scheduler for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. Zicklin manages the people on the campaign trail who perform "advance," a term that encompasses everything that has to be done at a location before a politician arrives.
Members of advance teams take care of such tasks as choosing a site for an appearance, making hotel arrangements, and coordinating security details with members of the Secret Service and the local police. "The people who make up the advance teams are running the show," Zicklin says.
Zicklin, whose conversation is frequently interrupted by staff members during a telephone interview from Nashville, has worked in politics since graduating from Kenyon. She did take a brief detour into programming computers at Andersen Consulting, a job she accepted during her senior year at the College, but that lasted for only a few months. Prior to beginning her job with Andersen, she worked briefly as a volunteer doing advance work for the Clinton-Gore campaign of 1996. From there, she was hooked.
"I quickly realized the job with Andersen was not for me. All my friends from the campaign had moved to Washington, D.C., and taken jobs with the administration. I was insanely jealous," Zicklin says in regard to the time she spent working for Andersen. After leaving that position, she became a staff assistant in the office of Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
In talking about her work with advance teams, Zicklin finds her best illustrations come through current examples. "Have you seen the front page of today's New York Times?" she asks. "There's a picture of George Bush and a picture of Gore. Those are examples of great advance. They build those pictures," she says of the photograph of Gore in particular. The picture, taken during Gore's marathon of Labor Day appearances, features him and his running mate, U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, shaking hands with a man outside a diner in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Zicklin explains that photographs like this don't happen by chance. "If Gore's photographed in a group of twelve people, it's not just twelve people off the street," she says. "But I don't mean to make it sound as if everything is scripted. The magic of an event comes from Gore himself. We don't script his performance."
The hectic atmosphere of headquarters is a reflection of Zicklin's professional life and her personal life as well. She says it's not hard to manage her own life while keeping up with Gore's, simply because she doesn't have much of a life these days. "That's not entirely true," she quips. "When I get off work around 10:00 each night, I go out for a beer with the other campaign staffers. That's about as much of a life as I have time for."
And don't ask her if life in the White House or on the campaign trail is anything like the television series The West Wing. She's never been home in time to watch it.
Not that she's complaining. Zicklin loves her work. "The best part of my job is that I get to wake up every morning and go to work for something I believe in," she says.
After the election, Zicklin says she would like stay in politics, but she isn't exactly sure at what level. "It's hard for me to look beyond November 7 right now," she says, but she knows she doesn't want to be in the trenches doing full-time advance work. "It's exciting, it's completely addictive, but it's too exhausting."
After becoming a political insider, Zicklin says she was surprised by how much influence she was able to have. "At one of the first meetings I attended, I suggested something for Gore's itinerary, and they said, `Oh, O.K., let's do that.' I guess I thought there was some secret committee of people in their fifties or sixties who made the decisions," she says. "I didn't know I could have such a voice at the table. It still amazes me sometimes."
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