Catching up with a grad: Gregory Rosalsky, Sonoma High ’02
Submitted photo Gregory Rosalsky at the White House with President Obama
In 10 short years, Gregory Rosalsky, Sonoma Valley High Class of 2002, has graduated with the highest honors from UC Santa Cruz, worked for the White House and gotten to the halfway point in his master’s in public affairs at Princeton University.
When he was 10-years-old, Rosalsky visited UCSC with his cousin, who was then applying for college. “I fell in love with the campus and decided I wanted to go there before I knew about rankings and finances. When I was deciding on what colleges to go to, that early impression guided my decision.”
For Rosalsky, college opened his eyes to a whole new range of intellectual pursuits. “I learned to think critically about the world around us – not just politically, but philosophically and spiritually. I became inspired to volunteer for civic causes and felt empowered enough to believe that I could make an impact, however small.”
His senior thesis argued for greater checks and balances in war-making and foreign affairs. The paper, for which he interviewed Republican and Democratic members of Congress, helped him graduate with highest honors for his political studies.
What advice would he give to high school students today? “This is going to sound cliché, but follow your heart. Study what you love and where you think you’ll be the happiest. But try not to get saddled with too much debt.”
Rosalsky is currently a graduate student at Princeton University, where he has a fellowship that covers his entire tuition, and he is pursuing his studies in economics and public policy. Earlier this month, he began a summer internship writing about politics for the Huffington Post in Washington, D.C., and his first articles began appearing in the paper the next day www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-rosalsky/.
Right after college, Rosalsky traveled to Iowa to work on the Obama presidential campaign, when Obama was still largely unknown. He later worked for an organization campaigning to end the Iraq War and then returned to the Obama campaign for the general election. Rosalsky was asked to join the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence after President Obama took office.
In this role, he was responsible for selecting the 10 letters from the public that Obama reads each day. “I saw the letters and emails as an expression of the passions, prejudices and struggles of the American people. Some of the stories were incredibly sad; like from parents who had lost their sons and daughters in war. It made me think long and hard about the real human consequences that policies can have. The president viewed these stories as an important way to get out of the ‘bubble’ a president can often find himself in.”
Later, Rosalsky moved to the Office of Communications were he researched individuals, locations and organizations for all public events involving the President, wrote vetting reports and did fact checking for the President and the First Lady’s speeches.
Each college student arrives at the decision for a major in a different way. For Rosalsky, his interest in politics was born out of a childhood in which he faced his share of adversity. His father passed away when he was young and he was raised by a single mother, Saranne. “That experience colored my view of the world. I guess it made me feel empathy for those who grow up facing adversity through no fault of their own. Even though my problems were not political in nature, this empathy influenced my political beliefs.”
During college, Rosalsky was involved in the college Democrats club and college radio. Both experiences pushed him to do work in progressive media.
In his limited free time, Rosalsky likes to mountain bike and snowboard. He is a big fan of all types of music and enjoys reading on his new Kindle. While he may be more than 3,000 miles from home, Rosalsky credits his mother with encouraging his dreams every day and allowing him to follow them. “My mom mustered the strength to raise us by herself. Despite facing her own hardships, she held it together for my sister, Alexandra (SVHS ’04), and me. She is an amazing mom. I’m incredibly thankful for the love she gave us and for instilling in me values that have propelled me toward political activism and public service.”
Added his mother, “Greg has faced adversity in his life and come out the other side with a sense of focus, determination and desire to serve that makes me so proud.”