Jim Messina – University of Montana Graduate and President Obama Campaign Boss Addresses Graduates in Missoula [AUDIO]
On a rainy Missoula morning, a former University of Montana grad who made good came back to share some life advice for the graduates of the class of 2013.
Jim Messina told the crowd at Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Saturday morning, May 18, that he was graduated from the University of Montana 25 years ago, became chief of Staff for Montana Senior Senator Max Baucus, and then received a fateful phone call in 2008.
“I was sitting in my office when the phone rang on a Thursday afternoon,” Messina said. “I said hello, and a voice said, ‘Jim, it’s Barack,’ and I said ‘Barack, who?.’ He said, ‘Barack Obama.’”
So, thinking it was a prank call from a friend, Messina hung up.
“My assistant, also a UM grad, came running into my office and said ‘Oh, my God, you just hung up on Barack Obama,’” Messina related to the crowd. “He called back immediately and said ‘Wow… nobody’s hung up on me in a long time.’ His request was simple. He said, ‘Jim, I need you to move to Chicago tomorrow to become my presidential campaign chief of staff.’”
After making some excuses, Obama told Messina if he wanted the job he expected to see him in Chicago the next morning. Messina said he did what anyone would have done, he called his mother.
“Her advice was simple,” Messina said. “She said, ‘Baby, this is not hard. In my lifetime, Barack Obama is unlike any other politician. So if you turn down this job… you’re out of the will!’”
Messina shared some advice with the graduates. He said they must leave their village, their familiar surroundings, and discover the world for themselves. In addition, he quoted Jay Z, the rap artist who wrote a song called “On to the Next One,” meaning to always be ready for the next challenge in life.
Messina pleased the crowd inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium by relating an incident that occurred the first day he set up shop in the West Wing of the White House as deputy chief of staff for the newly elected Barack Obama.
“I had the honor of being the first staffer who walked into the West Wing just moments after the President took the oath of office,” Messina said. “The first thing I did was to measure the distance from my office to the Oval Office… 41 feet.. .and then I hung a Grizzly banner for all to see.”
Messina closed his address by encouraging the graduates to cherish their memories of Missoula, as they head out into the world.
“I’ve been all over the world, I’ve met kings and queens and seen lands afar that I never dreamed I would see,” Messina said. “But, I can promise you, you’ve just spent four years in the single last, best place in the world. Congratulations, I wish you all the best Let’s go Griz… beat the Bobcats!”
Jim Messina Commencement Address