When he speaks at Cal State Fullerton Wednesday, Sept. 26, Henry F. De Sio Jr. will share stories about his experiences as the chief operating officer for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and, subsequently, as the president’s deputy assistant.
Speaking at Cal State Fullerton has special meaning for him because his father, the late Henry F. De Sio Sr., was an alumnus (B.A. history ’66 and M.A. history ’70).
“It’s a remarkable story, really,” De Sio said, adding that his dad was the last son in an immigrant family from Italy who came through Ellis Island and settled in Hoboken, New Jersey.
His father “entered kindergarten not speaking English, and many years later, he moved to California as an adult and worked hard to get his master’s degree,” De Sio said. “He went on to, among other things, teach high school English over two decades. So, I have a very special attachment to Cal State Fullerton. It was a launchpad for my dad’s career and, therefore, a factor for my own family’s success. I think you could even make the argument that I wouldn’t be coming to Fullerton, talking about what I am talking about, if it wasn’t for the opportunities that came with his education.”
Sponsored by Cal State Fullerton’s Division of Politics, Administration and Justice Pi Sigma Alpha, De Sio’s upcoming talk is free and open to the public. It is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Titan Student Union’s Portola Pavilion. Parking is $2 per hour or $8 for the day/evening.
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“I will talk about leadership lessons from the campaign trail. Everything I know about the physics of success, I learned on the campaign trail,” De Sio said. “It is in the hothouse atmosphere and under the blazing media spotlight that leadership is on full display for everyone to see.”
He said he also will speak “about the day I got the unexpected phone call that led to my wife and I moving to Chicago, the risk of leaving it all behind to pursue the unimaginable, and the pressures of balancing family and campaign life.”
As an undergrad, De Sio said, “even though I was intrigued by national politics, particularly the executive branch, I don’t think I ever realized it was possible for me to work in the White House or to become such a central part of something so historic like electing a president. Back in my youth, growing up on the West Coast, this was stuff you watched on TV. I know things have changed, and the world is smaller and more accessible, but when I get a chance to do a talk like this, I view it as an opportunity to help emerging young professionals and students dare to pursue big dreams.”
De Sio earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from UC Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School, where he worked from 2001 to 2004. He served as deputy assistant to Obama from the 44th U.S. president’s inauguration day until 2011. He owns and operates Way Forward Strategies, a leadership consulting practice based in Virginia.