Jewish-American White House Staffer a Model of Inclusion

As the new Receptionist of the United States (ROTUS), Leah Katz-Hernandez is one of the first people to greet the President’s guests in the West Wing.  Yet that’s not the only reason why Fox News Latino called the 27-year-old a “pioneer on the reception desk.”  Katz-Hernandez, who is deaf and was raised by a Jewish mother and a Mexican-American father, is a shining example of the White House’s dedication to accessibility and diversity.

Prior to her new post, Katz-Hernandez served as an aide to First Lady Michelle Obama. She told Fox News Latino that she immediately felt accepted the First Lady’s office:

It was my first week on the job…I was having lunch at my desk when a staffer from the West Wing came by and said, ‘I want to introduce you to the First Lady.’ The next thing I know the First Lady is standing in front of me. She said, ‘Hi, my name is…’ and then she finger-spelled her name. It was really a wonderful moment. I knew I’d arrived in a great place and felt really motivated to work hard for her.

In her new position, Katz-Hernandez has had the opportunity to welcome a variety of people meeting with the President, ranging from Chancellor Merkel of Germany to American citizens working on projects to make positive change in the world.

As ROTUS, Katz-Hernandez has access to a sign language interpreter to help her manage the West Wing, Roosevelt Room, and Ward Room.  She said:

The White House is really a model for accessibility for people with disabilities – and especially for deaf people.  I believe my story sends a good message about the abilities of people who are deaf and Latino to be successful anywhere.

As the Jewish community celebrates Jewish Disability Awareness Month, President Obama and his administration should be applauded for their real commitment to inclusion. Katz-Hernandez has a diverse and remarkably impressive background that she brings to her work in the White House, and is living proof that anyone is capable of achieving success.