Phi Beta Kappa alumni and former White House Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Gabe Amo recently left his position as Special Assistant to the President to prepare for a milestone in his political career — a campaign for the Rhode Island congressional seat held by retiring Rep. David Cicilline in a special election this fall. A native of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Amo is dedicated to making a difference in his local community. The wide-ranging liberal arts education he received empowered him to become a positive force for change within not only state and local politics but also on a national level. The son of Ghanaian and Liberian immigrants, Amo said “education has always been very important to me,” citing his lifelong passion for civics as arising from helping his mother study for her citizenship test.
Amo was a high-achieving student at the Moses Brown School in Providence and Wheaton College in Massachusetts, where he was deeply engaged with his campus community. He was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and graduated in 2010 with a major in political science and minor in the American economy. During his time at Wheaton, Amo led the Roosevelt Institute and was president of the Student Government Association. He was also involved in Wheaton College Democrats and the social association the Lyon’s Den. Throughout his time in college, Amo engaged in community service and completed national political internships, including working for Sheldon Whitehouse’s 2006 Senate race, the Rhode Island Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, and the White House Office of Political Affairs.
In addition to Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude honors, Amo received numerous scholarships and awards including the Davis International Fellowship, which enabled him to teach at a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana during the summer after his sophomore year. As a junior, he was one of just 60 students nationwide to win a Truman Scholarship for graduate study. During his senior year, Amo became the third student from Wheaton ever to receive a Marshall Scholarship, which enabled him to complete a graduate degree in comparative social policy at Oxford University. An award sponsored by the British government for “intellectually distinguished young Americans [and] their country’s future leaders,” the Marshall Scholarship is among the most selective graduate awards in the world, with an acceptance rate of only four percent.
After completing his graduate studies, Amo started his political career on a national level. He worked in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs during the Obama-Biden administration as a liaison to governors and state officials from 2013-2015. He also served in the White House’s Office of Political Affairs in 2010 and on the Obama-Biden re-election campaign as National Political Coordinator in 2012. From 2015 to 2019, he was the director of public engagement and community affairs in the Office of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. He also worked as the Senior Advisor for Raimondo’s re-election campaign in 2018 before initially joining Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential election campaign. In recent years, Amo worked on the Biden-Harris transition team and presidential campaign as the National States Strategy and Program Advisor. In his role as White House Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, he worked as President Joe Biden’s primary liaison to state and local elected officials across the United States. The Office of Intergovernmental Affairs engages state, local, and tribal governments, in addition to elected officials across Puerto Rico and US island communities, to address urgent and pressing issues impacting local communities.
Amo’s work at the local, state, and national level exemplifies Phi Beta Kappa’s values of community engagement and academic excellence, which he demonstrated throughout his undergraduate and graduate career. Amo was particularly excited by the opportunity to connect with local communities through his public service in the Biden administration. “There’s something special about this moment and wanting to be involved in public service because the challenges are so big but the rewards are so promising,” he said. As the Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Amo was often the first point of contact in the federal government for local officials. “Whether it’s your snowstorm or your wildfire, I was often one of the first people in the federal government that somebody was hearing from,” Amo explained. His work was integral to making the voices of local community members heard on the national level, in addition to bridging the divide between state and local government.
“My story is a Rhode Island story,” Amo said, citing his deep commitment to his home state. Now, Amo is joining a field of Rhode Island Democratic candidates hoping to replace Cicilline in the 1st District, which covers much of the eastern side of the state, including the state capital of Providence. Rhode Island Secretary of State Gregg Amore has scheduled a Democratic primary on September 5 and a special election for November 7. Amo’s priorities for the role include protecting Medicare and Social Security, controlling energy costs, and counteracting gun violence. “I want to use that experience that I’ve had, both at the state level and at the White House, to be an effective congressperson for the people of Rhode Island from day one,” Amo recently told Jewish Insider. Bringing his national connections to state politics is part of his “commitment to helping people,” Amo said, adding: “Politics and government are an opportunity to help people at their core.”
Eliza Browning is a master’s student at the University of Oxford studying modern and contemporary literature. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa in May 2022 from Wheaton College, where she was inducted in November 2021. Wheaton College is home to the Kappa of Massachusetts chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.