Everyone receives the occasional call from an unknown number, and it can be tempting to ignore it or be short with the caller, but senior Elliot Griffin, vice president of Temple Student Government said she has to be extra careful when she answers calls from unknown numbers.
“If you ever get a call from the White House, it comes up unknown,” Griffin said. “So you know how you generally answer unknown calls, if you answer them at all, you’re ready to be mean to some solicitor, and then the person on the other line says, ‘Hi, I’m calling from the White House, and we understand you’re affiliated with the College Democrats. The president’s coming, so let’s get this event together.’”
In October 2010, the White House contacted Griffin to do just that: organize President Barack Obama’s visit to Main Campus.
Griffin said she knew she would be speaking at the event, but six hours beforehand, she found out she would be introducing the president.
“At most, I thought I’d meet him in a rope line, shake hands, maybe get a photo op,” Griffin said. “I never thought it would be me introducing him and him telling me good luck as I ran out on stage.”
In addition to her duties as TSG Vice President, Griffin is communications director for Pennsylvania College Democrats, executive director of Pennsylvania Association of State-Related Students and a former intern with Organize for America—now Obama for America. Griffin is also a huge basketball fan and is the former Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA.
Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Griffin came to Temple by way of Pittsburgh, and she said the experiences with those organizations helped her form the passions that now drive her.
“I really developed a passion for education,” Griffin said. “I saw that the disparities in education opportunities really affect your future. I’m definitely not doing the same things that my friends that I grew up with in Dayton, Ohio are doing.”
Griffin is in the process of applying for Teach for America, with which she hopes to alleviate some of those disparities, and she has advanced to the final round of interviews.
“I’m passionate about advocating for students,” Griffin said. “I want people to be able to go through the financial aid process and for it to be a breeze. I want tuition to stay low. I also want to see democrats elected across the state of Pennsylvania…because I believe education accessibility is something that is extremely important to democrats.”
Griffin said she wants to hold an elected position at some point in her life. Though she’s not sure where, she said she is passionate about the future and success of her hometown.
“I’ve seen way too many friends lose their lives in that city, and I don’t want other people to have to go through that same thing, so I would definitely consider going back home because I think [I’m] somebody that’s from there, that’s grown up there…and I think only someone with that knowledge can really build that city back up,” Griffin said.
Thanks to her current extracurricular activities, Griffin may be one step ahead of the game.
“When it comes to me putting together campaigns right now, it’s just like the back of my hand,” Griffin said. “I know this process, I know what people are looking for in candidates, and that’s something that I didn’t realize I knew how to do until I had to use it.”
If she fulfills her goal of holding elected office, Griffin said she will enforce stricter gun laws and will work toward reforming the education system.
“In my experience, education and crime go hand-in-hand,” Griffin said. “I’ve been, I guess, on the negative side of crime, just from the areas I grew up in and the areas my family lives in, and I think they go together. I don’t often see people who view education as this wealth of opportunity committing violent crimes.”
Griffin said these experiences have challenged her at times.
“I won’t say I didn’t give up at times, because there were times when I wanted to give up,” Griffin said. “But somehow I [bounce back] and it’s because I see how I can contribute, and I see how I can make a difference.”
Griffin said she is passionate about the importance of giving back and said she believes everyone has an obligation to positively contribute to society in someway, including giving back to Temple.
“I think Temple gives us so much,” Griffin said. “At the end of it all, the foundation of this university has in someway shaped who we are and who we will be, so I think that it’s our responsibility to someway leave our mark on it and someway give back.”
Christine Fisher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.