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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Student Senate Election Taught Reynolds Graves Retail Politics

Political Science, 2011

Political Science, 2011

After a semester interning in Washington DC, Reynolds Graves landed in Logan airport just in time for his graduation. 
“I had a fantastic experience working at the White House,” Graves says. “Walking in and out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave every day is mind blowing, bowling in the West Wing, but Scheduling in Advance was not fun.” 
Enmeshed in the daily tedium of his internship, in Joe Biden’s Scheduling and Advance Office, Graves learned the great lengths of planning that go into vice presidential appearances. He sat through lengthy meetings about podium placement, cue cards, and how many steps the vice president would take through a room. 
“I totally respect the work,” he says. “A lot of times people think internships are a segway to a job, but sometimes I think you need to look at internships as something you don’t want to do in your career going forward.” 
As a student Graves transferred into UMB from Hampton University. He had an internship with the Patrick administration, and wanted to find a school where he could take classes without breaking the bank. 
“Coming from a historically black college I was like, ‘Cool, not only are there Black people here, but Asians and people from all these interesting countries I’ve never even heard of.’ So you’ve got a whole bunch of different cultures, and people mostly from Boston so I would learn a lot about the city.” 
He moved into a brownstone in Dudley Square, and began riding his bike to Harbor Point every day for classes, and then to the State House for work. Active in student government, Graves learned the awkward realities of politicking.
“Student government is a great way to learn how things happen. You get professional and personal skills along the way. When you’re a student, and you’re nervous or anxious about all of the tension between students about a budget for a party on the student government council, it’s the same thing in real life. There’s nervous tension. There’s political stuff going on, and you’re having those issues, or working through those problems with your colleagues. It’s the exact same thing in real life.”
He ran in the first open election for student body president, and lost by 54 votes. 
“It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life,” he says. “You study all night. You don’t sleep, but put on a suit like a campaign politician to shake strangers’ hands early in the morning, ‘Hey I’m Reynolds Graves. I’m running for student government president.’ 
“I’d literally stand at the sliding door to the student center. People were walking by, getting off the shuttle bus, wouldn’t care just, ‘What’s your name? Ronald?’” 
“As far as retail politics goes, I gained those skills, shaking someone’s hand and remembering their name and whatever the conversation was two days later in the cafeteria went a long way. I was not only able to do that, I was kind of forced to do that. It was a great experience, and it was interesting to see how many people voted, and how many people didn’t vote.”
“It was a really great learning experience because we had a very small budget. We had a Facebook page. I remember we got some guy to do a photo shoot. We had the little suckers with stickers around it saying, ‘Vote Chenelle Brown and Reynolds Graves for student government.’ I mean, that whole experience was just awesome and invaluable and something I never would have done anywhere else.” 
Around the same time as his campaign, Graves happened to be in the Political Science department when Professor Busier invited him to a lunch with then Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Schmierer from the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, from the Department of State. 
“She said, ‘Hey, you’re into foreign policy stuff, right? We got this guy giving a lecture in the library, but he wants to have lunch with a few students beforehand. I want you to go to this lunch.’” 
Graves ordered Schmierer’s book online, and read it in preparation for the lunch. 
“I made notes, and at the time my friends and I at Hampton started a political/lifestyle magazine. I started to generate interest in interviewing him for the magazine. When it came to the lunch, next thing I know I’m asking him softball questions about the book.”
Finally he Schmierer for an interview.
“He didn’t even hesitate. He said, ‘Yeah, but I’m really busy.’ I said, ‘OK, well I’ll come to Washington.’ He said, ‘You’ll do what?’ I said, ‘I’ll come to DC.’”
“I’ll never forget, I was next to broke, took the bus from Boston to DC overnight, 9 hours, crashed on a buddy’s couch, woke up the next day, threw on a suit, went to the Willard Hotel, which is the oldest historic hotel in Washington, and sat in the lobby with a coordinated press pool, and one of his aides, for an hour long interview.” 
“At the end of the interview when I clicked the tape recorder off, he said, ‘You’d be a great foreign service officer.’” 
At the time Graves was applying to an internship at the embassy in Cairo, so he mentioned his application to Schmierer. 
“Next day I got a call from the same aid that was there asking about my application very specifically and then I got the internship. The article came out in our magazine. It was called, Boston Power Lunch, Washington Tea Party.”
Two days after losing the election for student government Graves got an acceptance email telling him how to report to Mission Cairo.
Having rubbed shoulders with students from some of the most prestigious schools in the country through his various internships, Graves urges UMB students to have confidence.
“The biggest lesson I learned, don’t let the naysayers phase you by making you feel like you went to some stupid city college, or you went to a graduated community college, and because you did they’re better then you. Always have pride for the school.”
His favorite class was called Reading the Newspaper, taught by professor Frank Harron, who publishes of the Worcester Telegram. 
“I was that kid sitting in the front row cause I’ve always loved the news and the newspaper and the flow of news. I really loved it. That’s what spurred me into writing for the Bay State Banner. It came full circle when I was no longer interning in the governor’s office, but I was a freelance reporter, and professor Harron was hosting these Ethnic Media Roundtables with Governor Patrick, and I would then go to the statehouse, sit in the press room.”
“After graduation, when I went back and worked in the governor’s administration, I was at an all staff meeting and they were introducing me as the new staffer, and I think the Press Secretary chimed in at the time and said you know nothing’s new about Reynolds around here. He’s the governor’s favorite reporter from the Bay State Banner.” 
Graves also served as the vice president Phi Sigma Alpha, the political science honors society.
“That was one of those things were I expected, ok we’re going to have some meetings and talk some stuff, and have some snacks after class, but we actually went to DC and lobbied congressmen. We met with Nikki Saugus, and then senator John Kerry. We met with the Chief of Staff to Congressman Capuano.” 
On campus, Graves would often do his homework in the atrium in the Campus Center.
“That was a cool lounge kind of place, and when I looked at my watch, and realized I gotta get to class and I gotta print my essay I was able to run over and do it on one of those computers. The coolest thing about sitting in the atrium, I think, is you look up and you see all of those flags from all of those countries, and you just hear the languages in that atrium. I loved that big high ceiling.”

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010