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Securing America’s Future:

The Power of Liberal Arts Education

Kiki McLean

Counsel, Porter Novelli
Austin College (TX), Class of 1985
Catherine “Kiki” McLean serves as counsel for the Washington, DC, office of Porter Novelli and the agency’s global public affairs efforts. She assumed this role after four years leading the Washington, DC, and global public affairs practices and serving as a member of Porter Novelli’s Executive Committee. One of the top public affairs strategists in the country, she appears frequently on national television as a commentator on politics and current events. 
A veteran of six presidential campaigns including the historic 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, McLean has more than 25 years of experience leading strategic communications initiatives. During the 2008 election season, she served as a senior advisor to the Hillary Clinton for President campaign and frequently appeared as an on-air surrogate for the Obama for America campaign.
“Learn how to think. Become literate and learn how to communicate what you think. Get a liberal arts education,” said my father as he counseled me through the panic of trying to choose a college. He believed the right college would be a place to learn, not to train. My liberal arts education did not train me for a job, it trained me for life.

Inquiry is both the gift and the skill I took away from Austin College in Sherman, Texas. Because my education gave me permission to know, question, and challenge, I am a life-long learner. It took away the fear of the unknown and gave me the chance to succeed regardless of the environment. That well-rounded learning experience taught me to look at all the possible solutions from every angle imaginable. It also helped me appreciate that solutions can be found in unexpected ways and from unanticipated relationships.

Learn how to think. Become literate and learn how to communicate what you think. Get a liberal arts education.

The confidence to question and to explore is why a little girl from Texas can grow up and work for a President of the United States. From my college education, I learned how to defend a controversial point of view. It prepared me to land in a new city ready to meet new challenges rather than collapse in fear of potential obstacles. My choice of an independent, liberal arts college has made a difference in the kind of life I’ve had the opportunity to live, both personally and professionally. I guess I’ll just admit it: My dad was right.
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