Trump White House Innovation Chief Brooke Rollins on Giving All Americans a Shot at the American Dream

July 30, 2019 Updated: August 15, 2019

In the eyes of Trump White House insider and criminal justice reform champion Brooke Rollins, what is it like to work for President Donald Trump?

What exactly is the Office of American Innovation, the White House office she directs?

How exactly was it that the landmark bipartisan legislation, The First Step Act, was passed, when similar past efforts at prison reform had failed?

And what does Brooke make of the recent attacks leveled at President Trump, his administration, and his supporters?

Today we sit down with Brooke Rollins, Assistant to President Donald Trump and Director of the Office of American Innovation. Prior to joining the Trump administration, she was President of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a free-market think tank.

We discuss the efforts and policy proposals of the Trump administration to reform criminal justice, immigration, environmental policy, and healthcare.

And Brooke, a mother of four, offers her insider view of working in the Trump White House as they strive towards, in her eyes, “bringing prosperity to all Americans.”

Jan Jekielek: Brooke Rollins, wonderful to have you on American Thought Leaders.

Brooke Rollins: Thank you. It’s so great to be here.

Mr. Jekielek: So as it would happen, we were just together at the Turning Point USA Teen Student Action Summit. So the president was giving a speech to over one thousand very receptive young teens, went off teleprompter a lot. At one point he referenced Martin Luther King, and the crowd went wild, if you recall. The First Step Act is being passed. We’re seeing three thousand inmates just recently out back with their families as a result—disproportionately positive for the black American community. I’m thinking to myself, how could a president who’s doing these things, who’s being this way, be considered by some to be racist?

Mrs. Rollins: It really is remarkable to think that there are those who are trying to unfairly categorize the president or put him in any kind of a box. This president, my boss, that I’ve been so proud to work for now for a little bit of time, I believe he will go down in history as having done more for all Americans, but especially for those with the least among us, for those from impoverished communities, for those living at the margins of society, whether it is, as you mentioned, the First Step Act, our significant criminal justice reform act that the president led on and signed into law at the end of last year. To your point, we’re seeing some of the results of that right now, to the lowest unemployment on record for the African American community and sort of bring it all and tie it all back together.

The president mentioning Dr. King in his speech today to a group of, what, a thousand high school students, this is not college or young professional, these are high school students. And so for the president to mention Martin Luther King, Jr., and for the room to erupt and jump to their feet, I think it tells a larger story that the work that’s happening in this administration that is lifting all Americans, but especially those who need it the most to a real shot at the American dream. Again, whether it’s jobs, criminal justice reform, workforce, our fight for school choice across every category. What I think this man is doing to really help for the first time, these communities that had been promised and promised and promised, but have seen no improvements in their situations, now they see it. And so to tie that back to Dr. King, who is obviously known as the great civil rights leader of, certainly, our time, probably most of all time, but what people often forget is that the central tenant of Dr. King’s message was economic empowerment. And now President Trump is proving that out to be true—that this is how you truly change lives. And it’s really an honor to be a part of this rewriting of history.

Mr. Jekielek: Another narrative that I’ve been hearing is that actually anyone who supports the president is also racist. I don’t think this room would agree. What do you think?

Mrs. Rollins: I believe—this is my belief—that what this administration and what this president alongside this amazing vice president and our team, what is happening in America is truly transformational. But it is putting the other side into an all-out panic that for so many decades the left has been the one to say we’re fighting for the man or the woman who’s forgotten. We are fighting for the children of this country who don’t have a fair shot. And while we as conservatives, as those who believe in the founding principles of our country, our ideas are right, and they’re righteous, and they’re proven. But we haven’t always done a good job of explaining why it is that less taxes and less government and more freedom is better for everyone. But it’s especially better for those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. And now we’re making that case.

And whether it’s through the job numbers, the economy, the criminal justice reform efforts, the apprenticeships and workforce, whether it’s through fighting for educational opportunities, school choice for all children, the other side realizes that all of their words are meaningless because they haven’t achieved anything for these people. It is our side and what we have done that’s truly bringing change to these communities.

And so they can’t fight us on the policy, they have, I guess, chosen to fight us using horrible, awful terms like being a racist or not liking women or whatever it is. They’ve sort of downgraded their arguments to vile and disgusting characterizations that have no place in the public square, but unfortunately have become part of the public square. And the good news is we have our record to show what we’re doing for every American, but especially those who are forgotten and have been forgotten. And so I think that’s why we’re winning.

Mr. Jekielek: Bipartisanship is very rare in this day and age. We’re seeing the passage of the First Step Act, something you’ve been actually working toward for over a decade I think, or at least legislation of this sort. How is it that it’s possible that under this president, this legislation actually came to pass, whereas past presidents weren’t able to do so. How did this all come about?

Mrs. Rollins: This president is a disruptor. He is not interested in what the lobby thinks. He’s not interested in what the polls say he should do or shouldn’t do. He’s not interested in what the Republican Party says he should do or shouldn’t do. He has a very deep instinct on what is right and what is wrong. And I think that’s why America and the voters fell in love with him. He was a very unexpected candidate. He represented for the first time in a long time that he wanted to return government to the people and that he was there to fight for the American people. That it wasn’t about a party or a specific partisan belief. It wasn’t about any of that. It was about someone showing up who was willing to put aside a very successful life and say, I’m going to go to D.C., and I’m going to shake things up.

So in that context, the criminal justice reform effort fits very well. It doesn’t necessarily fit into the typical Republican—at least the Republicans as we know it—narrative. But what we realized in Texas, my home state, more than a decade ago, was that America has it all wrong on criminal justice, that we have 4 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated.

Mr. Jekielek: Right, I’ve heard that.

Mrs. Rollins: So when you look at that and you think not just the families that are torn apart, not just the communities that are torn apart, but the actual man or woman who is serving that time, many of them nonviolent low-level drug users, is warehousing them in a cell the best way to help society, to help families, to help communities, help the taxpayer? And you look at how expensive it is to even put these people in prison. So in Texas, again, 12, 13 years ago, we decided to change that.

I ran a conservative think tank, very focused on free markets and free enterprise and individual responsibility and liberty. And we said this has to change. And the old idea that conservatives and Republicans had on criminal justice reform, which really was build more prisons, put as many people in them, and throw away the key.

But in reality, what we figured out is that 93 percent of those men and women are coming back out and going back into the community. And so what are we doing as a society to make sure that they’re ready for that? And when they go back and they get a second chance—which I think America’s a country of second chances—that they have the tools they need to succeed. And so in Texas we closed prisons. We closed eight prisons over 10 years, which is amazing when you think about our population had exploded because of our job market, closed eight adult prisons, closed 11 juvenile facilities, and instead redirected a lot of that money into rehabilitation and drug courts and into the veteran community, which is a large part of the prison population.

And in that time, our crime rate decreased 30 percent. So it actually worked. And that’s the great thing too about this country, the laboratories of democracy that the federal government can sort of see what the states are doing and say, you know what, that’s pretty good. We want to do that.

Texas was first. Georgia, I think, was second. Kentucky … A lot of the red states began to follow what we did in Texas. So then when I joined the administration decided there were several here that were already very leaned into the issue. But bringing sort of that wealth of information and the understanding of how to get this sort of thing done. The president really leaned in and decided that it was something Barack Obama was unable to do, something that presidents previous to President Obama had been unable to do.

We worked with Democrats. We worked with Republicans. Again, one of the great untold stories of this administration is that there have been significant bipartisan wins, and this may be the very top one, but I think there’s still so much more we can do together and work together. And every day I have on the phone with Democratic leaders, with elected Democrats that people just don’t know about that this White House is working overtime to make sure we really work with everyone out there that’s willing to come alongside us and help move this country forward.

Mr. Jekielek: So at the White House, you’re the director of the Office of American Innovation, basically set up to deal with society’s most intractable problems. Is that right?

Mrs. Rollins: Yeah.

Mr. Jekielek: Could you give me a sense of how the administration actually approaches such things?

Mrs. Rollins: I say there are many unexpected blessings of working for Donald Trump. I expected when I joined to be able to help rewrite this country’s history in the way that it was intended, that I think most Americans believe that we were moving in the wrong direction.

So this disruptor comes along. He’s elected very unexpectedly, and he comes in the White House just ready to change everything. So that was a big part of my expectation was that we would have the chance, and that has certainly come true.

But what I didn’t necessarily expect was how joyful it would be. And I think so much of that joy comes from everyone I work with every day, whether it’s the president, the vice president, Ivanka Trump, who is extraordinary, her husband, Jared Kushner, who is equally as extraordinary, my friend Kellyanne Conway of 20 years. All these names that you hear and you see and often the left demonizes and caricatures in a way that is to some people pretty funny but so unfair. Because this team of people are coming in every single day fighting for this country.

And I think it’s a very unusual atmosphere because we’re led by a private businessman who’s never been elected office before. Our number two in charge, the vice president, was a governor of a state and a CEO of a very successful state. And the rest of us, just like the Founding Fathers intended, have left our farm, come to Washington to serve for a couple of years, and going back to our farm. And that is a very different mindset than most other presidencies and most other administrations.

So on the innovation front, it really is about what can we do in our finite amount of time to fundamentally change the direction of the United States of America to assure that every man, woman, and child has a real shot at the American dream.

And so the innovation piece of that is when we, for example, on immigration, which is another big issue I work on, when we decided, the president said the border and securing the border is very important and continues to be his priority.

But how do we actually fix the system, right? It’s more than building a wall, and it’s more than hiring more people to staff the border. That’s a priority. But clearly the system is so broken and so dysfunctional. And when we began to look at it, we realized typical Washington was like a layer of paint, over a layer of paint, over a layer of paint, over a layer of paint. And instead of saying, all right, well, what’s the next layer of paint look like? We decided to take all the paint off and just start from scratch. What does an immigration system look like from ground zero? How do we rebuild it? How do we build it from scratch?

And I don’t think any other president or any other administration would be willing to take that sort of a risk because it’s risky. What we’re doing in terms of rethinking everything and going outside the box on everything, most politicians would be very nervous about. This president, this is exactly why he’s here, exactly what he wants to do. And we’ll have six more years to do it, but that’s not that much time. So while we’re here we’re swinging for the fences every single day.

Mr. Jekielek: So on the immigration side, this administration is being accused of concentration camps at the border, of being anti-immigration. These are the kinds of things I’m hearing in a lot of media. I’m hearing something very different from you.

Mrs. Rollins: It’s really, again, to our previous conversation where we talked about how they’re not beating us on the policy, so they’re resorting to name-calling. And, interestingly, the concentration camps, the term that they’re using were all built under a prior administration. We didn’t even build those. But the pictures in the media and the narrative in the media again is geared toward trying to persuade Americans that we’re not here fighting for them, and that we’re horrible vile people. [It’s] just wrong.

But this is why I love this country so much, and I’m so grateful in many ways for the social media that’s out there and programs like yours because the fact that this president’s approval rating is higher, almost 15 points higher than Ronald Reagan’s was at this point in his first term, is higher in many ways than many of our other previous presidents, in the wake of this unmitigated attack, attack, attack, it means that we’re getting our message out and while, if you watch certain news broadcasts or read certain newspapers, people understand that what they’re reporting is not entirely true.

And so the president being able to talk directly to the American people, which he does a lot through tweeting or through social media accounts, or even the amount he engages with the press when he’s getting on and off Marine One, during Cabinet meetings. People talk about [how] they’ve never seen anything like this. And I sit back and watch him answer their questions. Most of them unfair, untrue, slanted, biased from the beginning. And I see him sort of looking right past the reporter and talking right to the American people, and he refuses to give up. I think a lot of other men or women in his spot would just be so tired of it and beaten down. And for President Trump, it almost gives him more conviction to keep fighting and to keep talking directly to the American people.

Mr. Jekielek: So, Brooke, everyone agrees I think that there is a humanitarian crisis at the border. What’s the quickest way to fix this?

Mrs. Rollins: It is a very difficult, very difficult issue. And you think that for the mom or the dad—I have four small children—who are living in countries where the economic conditions are unbearable and there’s no shot for a better life for their children, and they think that if they make this treacherous journey north, and they’ve been sold a bill of goods that they actually may have a real shot. You sort of see the false incentives that are currently in the system. But we really as leaders, both Republican and Democrat, have got to come together to solve this. It’s a very difficult issue. But to solve it, we just need to make sure that we have the right boots on the ground, that the right message is getting out.

The numbers are astonishing. One hundred thousand people were apprehended trying to come across the border in one month—100,000. And those are who were apprehended. I don’t even know what the larger number is, and that would have just been a hypothetical or a guess to begin with.

But there’s something happening where society is breaking down so much south of us. And really it’s past Mexico. It’s really into the countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

But really making sure that America is seen as a safe, secure, fair system where if you get into a caravan and you pay someone $5,000, you’re not going to get into this country. But under, really the plan we’ve proposed, which is putting a merit-based system in place to get into this country, here’s what you have to do, and here’s the line you have to stand in.

And we need workers. The great thing about the Trump economy is that we have more jobs available than workers available. And the president has said this multiple times: We need more workers. But we have to do it in a fair and just way and one that makes sense for this country.

Mr. Jekielek: So why don’t you give me a thumbnail. What does this merit-based approach to immigration look like.

Mrs. Rollins: So, currently, our immigration system … the last time it was significantly updated was the 1960s, and we had a very different economy in the 1960s than we do now. And when you look at the rest of the world, especially Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, their immigration system … you can come to their country, it’s very simple and easy to figure out. You get on the computer and it takes about an hour. You don’t need an immigration lawyer. There’s not pages and pages of convoluted rules, multiple agencies involved to hire someone to pick apples from a tree. In those countries, it’s very, very different.

And roughly, depending on the country from 60 to 70 percent of their legal slots that they hand out—these are the other countries—every year are based on skill or merit, et cetera, et cetera. In America, only 12 percent of our legal immigration system is based on skill or merit. So what that means is if we hand out a million green cards a year, which we actually hand out 1.1 million, but a million to make it easy for comparison, only 120,000 of those are based on what you, Jan, could bring to this country and what your skills are and what your assimilation opportunity is. Do you want to be an American? Are you going to be able to be a productive citizen and prioritizing your immediate family, so your wife and your children so they can come with you?

Currently, we have a system that’s based on what’s called family migration. So about 660,000 of those green cards are set aside for the extended family. This is the current system in America. So what happens is brothers and cousins and sisters and aunts and uncles are able to come across and have priority over those who want to come to America to be an American citizen and to produce and provide for this country.

And so it really allows the new system that is being proposed to have immediate family. So the other side says, well, we don’t like families. That’s actually not true. We are prioritizing the immediate family and then putting in place a system where any kid from Uganda or Guatemala or Chile, if they’re 10 years old and they know they want to be an American citizen, they can get on the computer and figure out exactly what they need to do that.

And so we really believe, and especially when you look at our growing economy, the other extreme point is that—I think it’s Australia with this exact same system has not had a recession in 26 years. And the reason is because they have set up and structured their immigration system so that they have the people coming into the country that can keep the economy moving forward and don’t necessarily come in and immediately become part of our welfare system and using all of our government services.

So readjusting that system is what the president wants to do. And he’s leaned all in. He’s really excited about it, and he thinks it’s the answer. And we hope Democrats will come to the table. We hope we may be able to get this done before Congress leaves next year and we have another election. But if we can’t, then it’s something that we’ll really look to prioritize in January 2021.

Mr. Jekielek: Okay I actually want to jump back to the First Step Act for a second. The First Step Act is really just the first step, right? What’s the second step?

Mrs. Rollins: And then the third step. And then the fourth step. We think really big around here. The First Step Act was really a focus on those who are currently serving time in our federal prison system and what kind of programming that we can provide when the 93 percent that eventually leave, they’re better prepared to reintegrate into society and be better parents and be able to actually have a job and live the American dream.

The second step, there’s lots of discussion about that, but what we’re really focusing on at this moment is second-chance hiring so that we can begin to somewhat change the narrative around the country. And many of our largest corporations and businesses have already jumped on board and want to set the benchmark, really, for what that looks like in giving people a second chance and what we can do as the government. We don’t want the federal government involved if we don’t have to, but what we can do as the White House to really set the tone that at the end of the day. Jobs is what will keep recidivism down and keep our crime rate down, and really that’s what most Americans are really wanting. So, really connecting to that.

Also looking at mental health and so many of our jails, especially our local jails are overcrowded. And most of those people that have been put in, there is some sort of mental health issue. So looking to our homelessness populations on the West Coast and other places, really looking at some of those larger issues which are mostly handled at the state and local arena.

And, again, very important we’re here to not create more government programs but figure out how to scale back to the ones that really, really work and the ones where government is the safety net, but not necessarily supporting everyone. And so we think that is also a very important part of the dialogue.

On First Step Act, what people don’t realize is that only 10 percent of our nation’s inmates are in the federal system, the other 90 percent are in the state and local system. So the second step actually is also moving back to the states, the states who haven’t necessarily done as much as a Texas or a Georgia or a Kentucky or an Indiana under Governor Pence, and having the states really continue to move these issues forward for our returning citizens, our Americans who have been incarcerated for one reason or another but are coming back into our communities, and what we can do to make those communities safer and help these Americans to a better life.

Mr. Jekielek: I know there are a number of families that are actually cheering these releases It’s really heartening to hear.

Mrs. Rollins: It is.

Mr. Jekielek: Outside of criminal justice reform and immigration, what else is in the purview of the Office of American Innovation?

Mrs. Rollins: We are … I like to say we’re the offensive team. We’re on offense all the time. What are the most transformative issues for this country? And working alongside some of our other offices, like the Domestic Policy Council, the National Economic Council led by Larry Kudlow, working with our friends in the Center for Economic Advisers, formerly Kevin Hassett’s shop, but now at least acting as Tomas Philipson.

And there’s so much good work going on for this country right now. But the things that matter the most, whether it’s education and school choice, whether it’s an energy revolution that’s changing the face of our country and, frankly, the world through our exporting freedom for the first time ever. The environment … America has some of the cleanest air and cleanest water in the world, and that’s not in spite of a capitalist free-market system. That’s because of our economic system.

So making sure that Americans understand that, that the regulatory reform that this president has led and is so proud of that has unleashed this economy. It’s not making the environment worse. If anything, our carbon reduction—we’ve led every Paris climate accord signatory. We’re so far ahead of everyone else that signed onto these silly international agreements that the president rightfully pulled us out of. But it’s because of our market system, our innovation that, again, we have the cleanest air and water in the world.

It’s interesting. Particulate matter is the pollution that actually kills people. It’s not carbon, it’s not some of this other stuff, but it’s particulate matter. The only parts of our country that don’t meet the standards are our West Coast cities. And that’s because that pollution is coming over from China and from India.

So let’s redirect the conversation here. Instead of everyone having Green New Deals and stopping fossil fuels and cattle and airplanes, let’s talk about what’s really hurting this world and some of our own Americans and figure out how to fix that. And so that’s a big part of our work—working alongside some of our friends.

But what I love the most, which the criminal justice reform is a part of, and some of these others, the effort to what we call transform American communities, bringing prosperity to all Americans.

And that’s really a weaving together of so many of the offices that my team gets to take the lead on. And that’s everything from criminal justice reform to jobs in the economy to work force and apprenticeship and reskilling to education opportunity and helping push school choice at all levels. Occupational licensing, which is such an important part for our most distressed Americans to actually have a real shot at a good job. Government tends to get in the way of that. That’s sort of the regulatory reform that you never hear about from the left, but it’s the one that is desperately needed amongst some of these communities.

But weaving all of those efforts together and making sure that this president has every opportunity to continue to move this country in the right direction, especially help those who need it the most. That’s really what we work to do every single day. And it just continues to be such a great joy.

Mr. Jekielek: So you guys have your fingers in almost everything

Mrs. Rollins: Almost everything. Yes we do, we do. It’s such a blessing. When I was talking about coming into the administration, I was told by one of the president’s very senior members of the team that we want to stay focused on the things that will transform this country the most. And what are those? And it’s not really that hard to figure out. It’s jobs. Underneath the job banner, that’s the economy, that’s tax cuts, that’s regulatory reform. It’s healthcare. What can we do as this administration to ensure that those who need the safety net have it?

But the government has completely messed up the healthcare market. And anytime the consumer that the American is not in charge, but instead either the government’s in charge, the insurance company’s in charge, the hospitals are in charge. But we’ve completely lost the opportunity to have the market drive healthcare. And so is it any surprise that we are losing our quality of care? The costs are skyrocketing. And the Americans who need it the most, may not be getting the very, very best care.

So how do we fix that? The idea that you put everyone into the government program, which is the Medicare for All, socialized medicine, that pretty much everyone on the left has signed up for. You really want the government to decide what kind of health care you need, when your life should end, what that looks like? That hasn’t worked anywhere in the world.

And America has, admittedly, a lot of challenges with our healthcare system, but at least we have some semblance of a private insurance market that is working and most people in other countries with a government-run healthcare system that can afford it come to our country for our healthcare. So that’s going to be a pretty rigorous debate, I think, moving forward over the next year-and-a-half because making the case to the American people that socialized medicine is not what we want, it isn’t what we deserve, and it doesn’t work anywhere in the world, just as socialism hasn’t. But it has some traction amongst those on the left and those who are considering themselves Democrats. And I think we just have to do a better job of explaining why that’s not the answer. So a little bit of everything to answer your question.

Mr. Jekielek: So explain to me a little more. I’m Canadian. A lot of people are saying that the Canadian system is better than the American system. What makes you think differently?

Mrs. Rollins: Well, I think, without being a complete expert in health care and more of a generalist, my understanding is that in America we have the most innovation. We have the most breakthrough technologies that almost every significant breakthrough on healthcare that the world has seen has come from this country. And that’s probably true of almost every industry, but certainly of healthcare.

And while Obamacare, interestingly, was about insuring the uninsured and moving large segments of our middle class into a government-run program. That government-run program was Medicaid, which is different from Medicare. And that is bankrupting every single state. In Texas, at one point, only three of 10 doctors accepted it.

And so what we believe and what we have seen is that any time the government is running anything, it will not be as efficient, as effective, or patient-focused as one that the private industries are running. So that’s what we’re really focused on. And really healthcare freedom to allow Americans to have the opportunity. And so Medicare, for example, a lot of people really like it. They want to keep it. But what we don’t want to do is move the entire country into that sort of a system because it just hasn’t proven itself out.

Mr. Jekielek: OK. I’m going to switch gears a little bit here. I was actually talking with one of your interns a little bit earlier.

Mrs. Rollins: We love our interns.

Mr. Jekielek: Yeah well that’s what she said. And she told me that working at the White House here with you is like being part of a big family. It was really interesting to me that she volunteered that without being asked. Can you speak to that a little bit?

Mrs. Rollins: You know, I was having a conversation a couple of days ago with the president. I said, I hope you can fully comprehend the amount of respect and love that these people have for each other that are working for you and for this country.

And while this is probably the hardest job any of us will ever have because the stakes are so high, and it’s not political stakes and winning or losing, that’s important, but it’s the stakes of the future of this country and for the men and women that we’re fighting for. They’ll know Donald Trump’s name, but they’ll never know my name, they’ll never know our team’s name. But that sort of high stakes, every decision we make we know has an effect on the future of America. And so that could lead one to think that this is a very high stress, very high anxiety [place], people are mean to each other, are very territorial.

And I have found it to be exactly the opposite. I have found it to be an environment where everyone truly wants what’s best and everyone truly respects and loves each other. And even though there are disagreements, and maybe, too, this is a little bit of working for this president. Because anytime there are major policy disagreements, we just go to him. And he wants to hear us debate. He wants to listen and he wants to learn and then he makes a decision and we’re all sort of back off to the races. And I love that about him. And I think, unexpectedly, probably to a lot of people, what that has fostered is a really positive work environment. And, I think, too, our senior team includes amazing women like Ivanka Trump with three small children. Mercedes Schlapp just left our team but was here for a couple of years. I think you were talking to her.

Mr. Jekielek: Yeah, I just interviewed her yesterday.

Mrs. Rollins: Five girls, five children. Kellyanne Conway, another one of our senior team women has four children. I have four small children. Sarah Sanders recently left. She has three. Stephanie Grisham came in. I don’t know that there has been another president with this senior of a team that has so many working moms. And we gathered together a lot and just talk about how great this whole team is, how great the environment is, that we wish America could know that there is no one who’s been more supportive of us and doing our very, very best for this country than the president and truly the vice president too and their families. It is a remarkable place to work.

People say, how do you describe it in one word? And often they’ll think I’m going to say hard or stressful. And I say magic. It’s magical to be able to here at this point in time and work for this leader.

Mr. Jekielek: Yeah. And what you’re describing is really in stark contrast to some of the things that we see—

Mrs. Rollins: Completely contradictory. I know, I know. And I’m amazed. And to be fair, I joined about 15 months ago, so I was not here at the beginning when I think that some of the kinks were being worked out. But in the last year and almost a half—and I actually worked with the administration on the outside on the criminal justice reform piece before I came in—I have just been blown away at this team and how dedicated and smart and ambitious and honorable everyone is. And we’re all here to serve this country.

And, again, we know it’s a moment in time that will probably never happen again. There will probably never be a Donald Trump or someone like him that is president who’s such an anomaly. But I hope that there is, and I would pray that there would be. But this is just a magical moment in this country’s history. And I think that history will judge it in that way and look back at this man and this team of people and see the good that was done for all Americans, but especially African Americans, Hispanics, our disabled community, our veteran community, what was done for those who have long been forgotten is historic.

Mr. Jekielek: So the president talked about winning.

Mrs. Rollins: Yes, he does like to win. Yes.

Mr. Jekielek: So is this the strategy? Is this the president’s approach—winning, or just being successful—to some of these, in your words, highly inaccurate portrayal of him?

Mrs. Rollins: I am such a believer in relentless optimism, and that in the face of the withering and unfair and untruthful attacks, we just keep powering forward. And this message in what we’re doing is so righteous and so good. And for me, personally, it’s biblical. It’s doing everything you can for the least among us and being called for a time such as this. And in doing it, again, going back to conversation we recently had about the president’s approval rating being at a historic high for him, but also somewhat historic relative to other presidencies also in terms of how positive it is. There’s no explanation for that other than the American people know that what we’re doing is working.

And so to be a part of that and understand while we’re in it, that these policies are working, that they’re helping people everyday, that the American dream, at least for now, has been saved. That there is still a shot that my children and your children and our future grandchildren still have a chance to build a life for themselves that is unlike anywhere in the world.

I come from a really small town in Texas. I grew up in rural Texas. I studied agriculture at Texas A&M, was raised by a single mom. Nowhere but America would I one day end up in the West Wing of the White House advising the most powerful man in the world. That doesn’t happen anywhere else other than this country. But that’s what’s so beautiful about this country is that no matter where you’re from, no matter the color of your skin, no matter who your parents were, no matter how much money you have, no matter how educated your family was, none of that matters. All that matters is that you’re willing to work hard and dream big, and in this country anything is possible. And so sort of that relentless optimism and the beautiful part of the United States of America and what this president has meant in bringing it back. I think that’s the story that has to be told. I think it is being told, and I think most Americans understand that that’s what we’re doing here.

Mr. Jekielek: Brooke, such a pleasure to have you here.

Mrs. Rollins: Oh, thank you so much. It’s my honor to do it. Thank you.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

American Thought Leaders is an Epoch Times show available on Facebook and YouTube.

Follow Jan on Twitter: @JanJekielek
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