Foreign policy and the state
Rachel Poynter grew up in Baton Rouge, but these days she hobnobs with the likes of Vice President Joe Biden in her role as director for North America on the National Security Staff in the White House.
The 40-year-old foreign policy adviser has worked on a range of issues from North Korea to US-Mexico border security under several Secretaries of State, including Colin Powell and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Poynter grew up in the Louisiana political arena, where her late father, David R. Poynter, served as clerk of the Louisiana House of Representatives, clerk of the Louisiana Constitutional Convention and executive director of House Legislative Services.
Poynter attended St. Joseph’s Academy and graduated from the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts in Natchitoches. She is a graduate of the New College of Florida and earned master’s degrees in public affairs and Latin American studies from the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs in Austin. Her mother, Jane Poynter Webb, lives in Baton Rouge.
In an email interview, Poynter answered some questions about her exciting life.
Tell us about your work.
I have a great job! One of the things I like most about this position is that I get to work foreign policy issues very close to home with our two closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico. Although I work on foreign policy, it’s easy to see how many international issues directly affect states, including Louisiana.
I recently had the opportunity to travel with the vice president to Mexico City, where he launched the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue. I really enjoyed listening to the vice president stress that our relationship with Mexico has a bearing on those states that trade with Mexico. And, of course, Mexico is one of Louisiana’s top export markets.
Another highlight of the trip was being able to fly on Air Force Two!
What do you do for fun?
My husband and I have two young children, who keep us on our toes.
In addition to our own work schedules, we juggle Little League baseball, soccer, band, drama and ice skating.
In between those obligations, we prefer to hang out together at home — cooking, reading, gardening or watching Netflix (often with a pot of gumbo or jambalaya on the stove).
Having lost my father at a young age, my amazing children and husband keep me grounded in what is most important in life, and I am forever grateful for that. My children still expect me to sing them a bedtime song each night, a commitment I try hard to keep, even with this job.
One of their favorites is Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927.”
What do you miss most about Louisiana?
The gorgeous oak trees, the wonderful people and the amazing food. My husband and I have raised our children in Washington, D.C., for the past seven years.
It has become our home, and we constantly feel blessed to live in a small, close-knit community, nestled among some of the most gorgeous landmarks in our country.
Nevertheless, I often catch myself thinking about the next trip home to Louisiana, when I can get ahold of some of the best cooking in the world, my mother’s, and our kids constantly ask about their next order of beignets!
Editor’s note: This story was changed on Nov. 5, 2013, to correct Rachel Poynter’s last name.