Interview with Former Cape Town Intern William

By Katie Arango

From Connect-123 intern to White House Correspondent. William McDonald participated in a Connect-123 human rights internship in Cape Town seven years ago. He recently took time out of his very busy schedule reporting the political news from Washington DC to chat with us about where his career has taken him.

You were an intern on our Cape Town program back in 2008.  Why did you decide to intern in Cape Town?

I truly love Cape Town and all of South Africa. I first visited the wonderful country of South Africa in 2004 as an exchange student at the University of Stellenbosch and again in 2007 to conduct my research for my masters thesis on the healthcare seeking complexities regarding HIV/AIDS treatments in Zwelethemba outside of Worcester. I deeply wanted to return in 2008 and Connect-123 seemed like, and proved true, to be the most friendly and uncomplicated internship program to work with. I was also very impressed with the costs and connections.

Tell us a bit about your experience in South Africa.

I very much enjoyed my internship with Connect-123. I was working for a small group of human rights lawyers in Stellenbosch investigating human rights abuses taking place on wine farms in the Western Cape.

William back in his Cape Town days.

Tell us about your current job.

I am currently a White House Correspondent and cover Capitol Hill and the Pentagon. I work for a radio broadcast company which provides news content to over 400 radio stations worldwide. I often travel with President Obama and even have my own seat in the White House briefing room, which makes me very happy! I have met President Obama a number of times and have had the great honor of being called on by him during press briefings. It has been truly amazing working in the White House and being around the President of the United States while he works and travels.

Official White House Holiday photo with President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and William McDonald and Justin Duckham, White House correspondents for Talk Radio News Service. Dec 2014
What are some of the most exciting stories you’ve covered?

Some very exciting stories have more to do with my experiences with President Obama. I was one of 5 journalists selected to be in the room when he announced upping battle plans against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the Cuban curbing of relations and have been in the Oval office a number of times with other world leaders. Otherwise my stories are more breaking news stuff, not so much investigative. I did once catch on video the spokesman for the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, a Republican and third in line to the presidency, intimidating journalists and calling their stories horse sh*t.

Photo taken by the Associated Press on Sept. 19th. William McDonald of Talk Radio News waits with White House security guards following a break in into the White House where a man made it over the heavily guarded fence, through the front entrance of the White House where he was finally tackled and taken into custody. The man was reportedly armed with a small knife. William McDonald was the last journalist escorted out of the White House through the West Wing by the secret service. The incident led to the resignation of Julia Pierson, then Director of the Secret Service.
Do you think your internship influenced your career path? If so, how?

My internship with Connect-123 gave me the confidence needed to carry out many of the duties I am responsible for day to day. It is a very intense job and the internship Connect offered me forced me to face my fears and ask the tough questions needed when investigating human rights abuses. I would absolutely say that the hard work from the team at Connect has led me to be the confident and ambitious person I am today. Without the opportunity with Connect-123 I am unsure where I would be today.

William McDonald of Talk Radio News stands at the official House of Representatives press briefing podium minutes before Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi takes the stage. Capitol Building. Nov 2014
Any advice for our readers?

Work hard and do things that scare you! Stay moral and ethical and never stop asking questions!

William McDonald of Talk Radio News provides a “selfie” with of Marine One landing on the South Lawn of the White House grounds. Marine One was transporting President Obama at the time.

To keep up with William and all of his adventures, follow him on Twitter at @onavouyage and Talk Radio News on Twitter and Facebook.

Katie Arango

Program Director, Argentina:Katie, a US native, had traveled to Buenos Aires on several extended trips before the city’s lure became too strong and she decided to call it home. Long fascinated by the global scene, Katie earned a degree in International Studies from Miami University and spent time studying and living in Madrid, Spain. She then worked in marketing for an international board game company followed by a brief foray as an online community editor for several websites before joining the Connect-123 team. Still a tourist at heart herself, Katie loves watching newcomers discover the charm of Buenos Aires and takes great pleasure in helping them make the most out of their work and volunteer opportunities while experiencing everything this dynamic city has to offer.

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