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Newport resident earns third degree after storied Washington, D.C. career
May 10, 2013
It is common for Community College of Rhode Island students to return to the classroom after previous workplace experience. It’s less common for their workplace to have been the White House.
In 1987, Anne DuBose Joslin, a single mother and fledgling career woman living in Virginia, volunteered to work for the nascent presidential campaign of Vice President George H. W. Bush. Her service took her behind the closed doors of the campaign into the White House, to the U.S. Department of Commerce, on a trade mission to China and then back into private life.
She owned her own consulting businesses, closed it, wrote an exposé about Bush’s failed 1992 campaign, worked as a gift shop owner and tour guide in Newport and eventually found her way back into the classroom at CCRI. Joslin, 68, is graduating this spring with a 3.97 GPA and hopes of starting a new career as a paralegal.
This is Joslin’s third college degree. Her explanation for why she returned to school at 65 years old is simple: “I think there’s nothing better than to be challenged,” she said.
Joslin earned her first degree, a bachelor’s in English, from the University of Georgia in 1967. She married right away and focused on raising her two children rather than on having a career.
“Women weren’t expected to work at that time,” she said.
Later, living with her family in Chattanooga, Tenn., Joslin began considering a return to school. Her marriage was in trouble and she knew she would have to enter the workforce if she got divorced.
She enrolled at the University of Tennessee and chose a master’s program in statistics and industrial organizational psychology, which is the study of employee morale and motivation within large corporations. Joslin said that CEOs and policy makers often make sweeping decisions without having corroborating data before them, and she wanted to be the one to provide that data.
Her academic choices had a profound impact on her later life but when she graduated in 1981, the unemployed single mother of a 5-year-old and an 11-year-old had no idea what to do.
Joslin decided to bring her children to McLean, Va., where an old friend lived, and look for a job. She worked for four years as a human resources officer for a Virginia-based defense contractor before another friend asked her to join his lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.
Joslin lobbied on behalf of universities seeking research funding and had an office next to that of John Mitchell, who had been the U.S. attorney general under President Richard Nixon.
“I loved being in D.C.,” Joslin said, “but the commute was horrendous and I was juggling two children all the time.”
Despite living in the nation’s capital and lobbying Congress for a living, Joslin was surprisingly apolitical. When she volunteered to work with the Bush campaign in the summer of 1987, it was more out of her regard for Barbara Bush, who also had attended her Charleston, S.C., boarding school, than any strong political feelings.
Joslin’s decision proved momentous. She was asked to leave her job at the lobbying firm to work for the campaign full time, first as the national volunteer coordinator and then as a researcher.
Joslin credits her rise within the ranks of the Bush organization to the fact that she had no obvious political ambitions of her own in Washington, which made her a trustworthy rarity. Though she didn’t want to be a politician, the campaign soon got her interested in politics.
“I wasn’t very political before that but in a campaign, it hits you,” she said. “There’s so much stuff going on. You’re in a whirlwind of gossip and prediction … it gets very addictive.”
When Bush won the election, Joslin assumed she would go back to her lobbying job. However, she was asked to be a part of the transition team and then, on Inauguration Day, to head up the campaign’s presidential personnel office. This was a temporary, three-month position but she reported to work at the White House.
“It wasn’t like ‘The West Wing,” said Joslin, referring to the popular television show portraying the lives of White House staffers. “It’s not filled with people rushing around and talking. [The White House] has a level of very quiet energy that you never want to leave. … You’re afraid you’re going to miss something.”
Joslin said the building itself is “a lot like visiting your grandmother’s house,” with narrow, creaky stairs and antiques everywhere; the dining room in the basement is low-ceilinged and cramped.
The Oval Office, Joslin said, “is kind of unassuming. It has a comfortable elegance.”
Joslin served during most of Bush’s four years in the White House as an appointee to the International Trade Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She had no experience in international trade but made herself an expert on the software market in China and Japan. She led a two-week international trade mission to China on this topic, which she called the highlight of her years in the administration.
Her final year in government was spent as a congressional liaison during hearings about NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Act.
Bush lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton in 1992 and, as always happens in these situations, all of his appointees were removed. Once back in the private sector, Joslin opened her own export consulting group that helped businesses break into the Asian market. After a few years, however, she decided that the story of the 1992 campaign had to be told and she moved to Newport to write it.
Joslin’s father was a career naval officer and she moved around a lot as a child, but she always considered Newport, where her father owned a house, to be her hometown.
“I was glad to be back and I was so grateful that I didn’t spend three hours commuting any longer,” Joslin said.
She worked on the book, “Ambushed: Why George Herbert Walker Bush Really Lost in 1992,” for five years and self-published it in 2003. She believes that infighting between hold-over Republicans loyal to Ronald Reagan and those working for Bush contributed to his loss.
After finishing the book, Joslin worked as tour guide for the Newport Restoration Foundation and ran her own specialty gift shop on Thames Street. One day, a friend who is an adjunct English professor at CCRI suggested that she take some classes to satisfy her intellectual side.
“I said, ‘But I’m 65 years old,’ and my friend said, ‘That doesn’t matter,’” Joslin remembers. She visited the Newport County Campus, looked at the course offerings and chose a program that seemed interesting, just as she had at the University of Tennessee. This time it was Paralegal Studies.
“I realized the law had affected me, as a single mother, all my life,” she said. “I want to make law less intimidating for people.”
While doing her course work, Joslin had three internships – two with the criminal division of the Office of the Attorney General, one in Providence and another in Newport; and an internship with the clerk's office at the Providence Superior Court. She considers these internships invaluable and encourages others to take the opportunity to gain hands-on experience.
Joslin said she enjoyed learning from professors who are also experienced working lawyers and having the opportunity to meet a diverse assortment of fellow students.
“I’m in awe at some of their stories,” Joslin said about her fellow students. “I’ve loved the connectedness to people I never would have met otherwise. I’m glad I came back to school.”