October 23, 2012
by Rana Tahir '13
Imagine waking up and briefing a senior White House official in the middle of the night -- and you have Knox College alumnus Derk "Will" Lion's job.
Lion, who graduated from Knox in 2000 with majors in history and international relations, returned to campus for 2012 Homecoming to talk with students about his job working under Presidents George W. Bush and, later, Barack Obama in the White House Situation Room. He was guest speaker in Survey of International Relations, taught by Sue Hulett, who is the Richard P. and Sophia D. Henke Distinguished Professor of Political Science and chair of International Relations.
"The Situation Room's job primarily, within the White House, is to control information flow. The 'Sit Room' receives information from all around the world on a 24/7 basis," Lion explained.
Part of his job, he added, involved collecting this information to brief senior staff at the White House.
At the White House, Lion has crossed paths with and spoken to Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Henry Kissinger, whose book he read as a student at Knox College.
"It was exciting working there because the main thing we got to do is see how policy is made," Lion said.
Lion was present in the Situation Room during many headline-making events. These often-historic events that we might see in the media, Lion saw first and reported to presidents, secretaries of state, and national security advisors.
Knox senior Tanvi Madhusudanan, who is double-majoring in international relations and psychology, appreciated Lion's willingness to come to campus and speak with students.
"I think the fact that we have (alumni) that come back to talk to us, it's telling how valuable a liberal arts education is in getting into an actual professional field," said Madhusudanan, who is from Walnut Creek, California.
Katie Miller, a senior from Toledo, Ohio, who is double-majoring in international relations and French, found Lion's experience especially valuable because she hopes to one day work for the federal government in the State Department or the Department of Defense.
"He's pretty much living the life I want to live right now," she said.