On Monday, Oct. 16, Providence College hosted Philip Droege, Director of the Office of Records Management at the White House. The event took place in Ruane LL05, with a reception in the Ruane Great Room. Droege’s lecture brought attendees of all ages; students, professors, and children were all present. He made the experience interactive, asking a slew of questions and offering a package of White House M&M’s complete with a presidential signature as an award for a correct answer (everyone received a box at the end). Droege also welcomed questions from the audience, jokingly promising a full-ride scholarship or year-sabbatical for the best answer. His humor and kindness made the event entertaining and enjoyable, while also packed with information about both his job and the larger duties of his office. Droege’s wife, who was present in the audience, is a PC alum, so this event contained a personal element as well.
Jessica Rogers-Cerrato, Reference Archivist at the Phillips Memorial Library, opened the event with excitement and warmth, proud to share PC’s impressive archives with an archivist from the White House. She then handed the podium to Dr. Sean Reid, Providence College Provost, who shared words of welcome and anticipation before Rogers-Cerrato officially welcomed Droege to the stage.
Starting as a global studies teacher at the Long Island Lutheran High School, he received an offer to be a White House records technician only two years into his teaching career. He accepted the job in 1990, and has worked there ever since for the past 33 years. He has served under six presidential administrations, and has held the director position since 2004. His career has nothing to do with policy, and is often better suited for people who are not passionate about politics.
Droege gave many examples of the various pieces of our history present within the archives. From inaugural addresses to the bullhorn George Bush used to address citizens of New York City following 9/11, the archives hold countless governmental artifacts. Other items include the head chair from the Osama Bin Laden situation room as well as an interesting letter to Donald Trump from the Nixons in 1987 that predicted his presidential victory if he ever decided to run. For a scale of how many documents the office deals with, Droege used the Obama administration as an example. During Obama’s eight years in office, the archives processed 304,105,609 emails, 3,240,359 photos, and 532,309,036 documents. Luckily, when these administrations end, the vast majority of them can be discarded due to the Federal Records Act.
Droege ended the event by thanking the audience again, and with a final testament to his job:
“I lucked out in getting this job. What a privileged, and terrific job I’ve had. It is an honor and a privilege, and that is why I love coming out to talk about it, and share it with people and students like yourselves.” He was pleased to speak about his job with the audience, and attended the reception to speak to attendees as well.