‘A moment I will tell my grandchildren about’: Pitt student works at Biden inauguration


Photo courtesy of Gabriella Ogude

Pitt senior Gabee Ogude worked as part of the media and logistics team for President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

By Kaitlyn Nuebel, Staff Writer

As Kamala Harris made history on Wednesday morning as the nation’s first female Black vice president, Gabee Ogude stood pressed up against a gate a few blocks away from the Capitol livestreaming the inauguration on her cell phone.

“When I watched Obama’s inauguration I was eight years old and even I knew the gravity of that moment back then,” Ogude, a senior psychology major, said. “Now I’m watching the first Latina Supreme Court justice swear in the first Black VP. That is a moment I will tell my grandchildren about.”

This time Ogude didn’t just watch the historic moment — she helped make it happen. She spent the three days before the event at the National Mall working on the Biden Inauguration’s media and logistics team.

One of 30 people acting as the liaison between the incoming Biden administration and the media outlets covering the event, Ogude communicated with the Secret Service about where news organizations could set up their equipment and made sure representatives from CNN and The New York Post had the proper credentials.

“We’re the first people they meet when they get there and we’re their first representation of Biden,” she said. “They’re going to have a relationship so it’s crucial everything runs smoothly because we’re a representation of him.”

Ogude initially heard about the position on the media and logistics team through ColorComm, a community of women of color in communications. When Jackie Palmer, a deputy director on the Biden Inaugural team, asked for workers, Ogude immediately responded, securing the position just 12 days before the inauguration.

Ogude said she got no sleep, starting some days as early as 3 a.m. and working until 6 p.m. She drank Starbucks espresso double shots every morning to help keep herself awake and wrote down what she experienced each day in a journal. Ogude said she requested to work longer hours so she could make the most out of the experience and make a lasting impression.

I was like ‘Well, I think this is my opportunity, right? I should probably stand out in some way,’” Ogude said. “I have to be there first and I have to leave the last, because I was like, ‘This is not going to come around again.’”

For Ogude, the opportunity came only a month after she decided to change her career focus from psychology to politics and broadcasting. Ogude — who said she grew up in a political household, with the news on “from night until morning and morning until night” — changed her plans after she lost sleep analyzing the 2020 election and witnessed the impact political commentators can have on the election cycle.

“The conversations me and my father have are very much very back and forth arguments about the way things are and how to change them,” Ogude said. “I got tired of complaining. I would rather be on the inside working to solve the problem.”

Ogude said she felt trapped in her major and went to the Career Center, which then put her in contact with Kevin Smith, the director of undergraduate studies in broadcasting. Smith, who frequently sits down and develops a plan with students interested in changing their career focus to broadcasting, said he was blown away when Ogude secured the position on the Biden team so early on after changing her career focus.

“You can tell somebody, ‘Okay here’s the plan,’ [but] they still gotta have that thing inside of them like, ‘I’m gonna put my head down and go as hard as I can and do this,’” Smith said. “The moment she told me — I mean, it hurt my face from smiling so much — that’s when I realized she is absolutely going to achieve what she is setting after in broadcasting, and she doesn’t even realize that yet.”

Nneoma Uzoukwu, Ogude’s close friend since their sophomore year, said she could tell Ogude was passionate about politics before she decided to pursue it. Uzoukwu said she sees Ogude’s involvement in the Biden inauguration as confirmation that she made the right decision.

“When she told me about it she was really excited and I could tell that everything was just coming together for her,” Uzoukwu, a senior philosophy and epidemiology major, said. “Now she’s finally choosing this area she likes and she’s having all these opportunities fall to her because she’s meant to be in that area.”

Smith said Ogude’s experience at the Biden inauguration will likely open doors for her down the line.

“This is going to be the biggest thing that happens to her in 10 years, unquestionably, because it’s going to springboard her,” Smith said. “And of course great things will happen down the road, but this is how you dive in.”

But regardless of what the future holds for her, Ogude knows that this past week was the start of it.

“It’s the beginning of my story,” Ogude wrote in her journal on Thursday morning. “It’ll be a damn good one!”