This August President Lincoln’s Cottage added two new staff members to its team. Jenny Phillips (External Communications Coordinator) and Nathaniel Hodges (Development Projects Coordinator) sat down on their one-month job anniversary to interview one another about their new roles, what attracted them to the Cottage, and what it might be like to have a beer (or in his case, a frosty glass of water) with Lincoln:
Jenny: In your own words, summarize your role here at the Cottage?
Nathaniel: I am in charge of membership and member relations. I’m also in charge of various development projects throughout the year, helping to manage the logistics of events such as Bourbon and Bluegrass, the Freedom 5K, and providing support.
J: When would someone say, “you should go talk to Nathaniel about that?”
N: You can come to me for information about our donation levels, what’s included in your membership level, the perks; they can come to me about information about upcoming programs, volunteering for events, and questions about donations, acknowledgements, and tax write-offs.
Same question for you: what’s your role here at President Lincoln’s Cottage?
J: Essentially I’m the go-to person for anything involving marketing or communications here at the Cottage. I coordinate our press relations — anytime people want to film or photograph the Cottage, they’ll go through me. I also coordinate our social media, I create a lot of our marketing materials, I write our marketing emails and newsletters, and I’m basically the gatekeeper of our messaging at the Cottage. I keep people informed and updated on what’s new at the Cottage, and I’ll be helping to promote our public programs and events.
What’s your previous professional experience, and how did it help prepare you for your role here at the Cottage?
N: I have worked with the City Choir of Washington on their development committee as well as management experience through the City Choir of Washington and a childcare company located in Maryland. A lot of my experience was dealing with relationships with donors and board members, parents and administrators, so a lot of my experience comes from managing questions and desires from all different levels of people of an organization.
What’s a bit about your background that connects to what you’re currently doing here at the Cottage?
J: I’ve never worked at a historic landmark before so that aspect is new, but very cool. However, I have worked for nonprofits in the past. I went to school initially for journalism and communications, and I worked a few jobs doing communications for nonprofits after I graduated. From there I took a little career detour and taught abroad in South Korea and the Czech Republic, where I certainly got a lot of experience in a lot of other ways, but returned to the states last July and wanted to jump back into a career in communications. When we’re sitting at meetings and divvying up tasks, every task that I get, I’m like, “oh good, that sounds fun.” And I know that’s not what everyone would say. But I genuinely enjoy what I’m doing, and I think that shows in your work.
N: My path was a little different as well, I initially went to school for music education. I have some nonprofit experience, and I also worked at the Decatur House. But this is a bit of a career shift for me, too. I’m focusing more on the administrative and financial side of things. Focusing on how to get the money to do the things we want to do. This work makes my brain synapses fire, this is interesting.
J: Ok, down to brass tacks. Lincoln: what’s your favorite Lincoln fact, story, or quote? Basically, what do you like about the guy?
N: There are lots of things to like about Lincoln, but what I found particularly amazing is that there can still be scholarship written about him. Like you’d think after all this time, he has to be one of the most written about public figures. What I think is really interesting is his immigration act. It was the only one to actually encourage immigration into the country.
J: No, totally. That’s super neat. I didn’t know that either.
N: So we’ve had tons of immigration policy and reform but it’s the only one that actively encourages people to come into the United States. Especially immigration has been a hot button issue, particularly now with the upcoming election. What about you?
J: One thing I do really appreciate about the Cottage is that we present him warts and all. I think it’s really important because he’s a lot of people’s favorite president, he’s idolized, almost made to God-like status, and the truth is, he was human. He was tired and frustrated and impatient sometimes. Then, once it’s presented, you can then make your own call and interpret it in your own way.
I’ve been reading Lincoln’s Sanctuary and a lot of the accounts talk about how shocked people were with how he was often disheveled and spoke plainly, and wore simple outfits. By all accounts he did seem like a man of the people — he didn’t care about the pomp and circumstance. He seemed warm and genuine and many of the accounts confirmed that’s how people felt when they met him.
N: In politics, voters are often looking for someone they’d like to grab a beer with. And I do wonder if that was first set around Lincoln. You want someone you can relate to, but you also want someone who has super-human ability. It’s amazing that he could still be warm and genuine but still have the ability to lead the nation through a time of crisis.
J: And I love that he met with people in his pajamas. So, switching gears, what’s one thing that people generally don’t know about you?
N: One of my favorite things to do is to arrange flowers. Living close to Virginia Tech, they have an amazing agriculture department. In high school we would help arrange flowers; we’d do boutineers and corsages for dances, bulb sales in the winter. For my senior saxophone recital, I made bouquets for my saxophone teacher. And now I want to get into bonsai trees. One of my favorite places in the city is the bonsai area in the National Arboretum. They have a cool section where you can see bonsais from around the world. What about you?
J: Oh let’s see, I speak Spanish. I studied abroad in Spain and was a double Spanish major in college. Also, due to teaching abroad for a few years I’ve been lucky enough to travel to 31 countries. I can say “one beer, please” in a few languages. Ha. Oh, and I’m related to Winston Churchill.
N: What? Wait, how?
J: So Winston Churchill’s mom was American. Her name was Jennie Jerome, and she was my great, great grandma’s cousin. She lived in England obviously, but my great, great grandma and Jennie Jerome would write each other letters. You can see the family resemblance obviously.
Want to get in touch with Jenny or Nathaniel? Feel free to reach out: