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Luke Emory

From Jarman Hall to the White House

Experience at Longwood prepares alum to record sights and sounds of Obama administration

When President Obama announced in May 2011 that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces, the person running the teleprompter in the East Room of the White House was Luke Emory '10. When the president walks into a room and a voice announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States," that voice may belong to Emory, and when you watch a video on the White House web site (Whitehouse.gov), Emory was most likely involved in its production.

Emory is a multimedia technician specialist for White House Event Productions, which handles what he calls the "audiovisual components" for the Obama administration.

"Essentially we're glorified roadies for the president," Emory said, even though all his traveling takes place in the halls of the White House. (Another crew follows President Obama on the road.) "Any time there's a statement or a taping at the White House that involves the president, first lady or vice president, we're involved with it."

Emory gave as an example the October visit of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, which included an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn; a joint press conference in the East Room that included video feeds for online and television broadcast streaming as well as a dual translated audio feed for the presidents and the press; and a state dinner.

"At other events, I sometimes run the digital audio mix board. This mixer and amps provide sound and allow us to PA whoever is talking during the event or taping," he said. "If you go to the web site www.whitehouse.gov, a large majority of the videos you see, which were taped at the White House, came from us in some way."

How often is Emory in the White House? "Every day. About 90 percent of our events take place in the White House." The rest take place in the Executive Office Building-"about 30 yards away from the West Wing entrance," he said-which is where the 12-member White House Event Productions staff has its offices.

Emory is one of the youngest members of the staff and one of two under age 30.

"I love this job," said Emory, who lives in Arlington. "This is a unique opportunity, and I'm grateful for it. Audiovisual work was always a hobby, a passion, of mine, and now I'm paid to do it for the president."

After speaking with Emory for a short time, it becomes clear that every day is different. For example, on the day he was interviewed for this article, he had a press briefing with the president's press secretary, Jay Carney, then filmed a "Let's Move" segment for the Disney Channel that featured first lady Michelle Obama. "That night we had a reception in the East Room with President Obama honoring wounded soldiers of the Iraq War," he added.

Emory was offered the job the same day he interviewed for it in October 2009 but had to wait for his security clearance, which came through in December 2010. He trained for about a month before officially starting on Jan. 3, 2011.

At Longwood, Emory worked as a production assistant for Conferences and Scheduling in the summers of 2008 and 2009. "I worked in Jarman. I ran the audio mix and light board as well as setting up podiums and the stage for numerous events held by the conferences. It was great working there because it prepared me for this job," he said.