On The Move with Kevin Groh ’09
Right now, Kevin Groh ’09 isn’t quite sure what his next move will be. He just finished working on the successful Biden for President campaign and is looking at possible jobs in the administration. But his biggest achievement this past year was working on the unprecedented presidential campaign of Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay man to run for the nation’s highest office.
Though Groh has worked in a number of high-profile positions, including as the GOTV (Get Out The Vote) Director on Stacey Abrams’ run for governor of Georgia in 2018, and as the senior media advisor for the Speaker of the New York City Council, his work for Mayor Buttigieg felt especially personal.
“It empowered and motivated me as a gay man to work for the first openly gay candidate in American history,” explains Groh. “I wanted to be on that cutting edge.”
Groh was the Iowa organizing director for Buttigieg—a state the groundbreaking candidate narrowly won, becoming the first openly gay candidate to win a presidential primary or caucus. When Groh was at Webb, he was president of SMART—Students Maintaining and Reaching for Tolerance, a gay straight student alliance.
“That was meaningful for me because Webb is such a traditional school in so many ways, with chapel and formal dinners, but I was encouraged to be myself, and to start new initiatives to raise awareness of and organize around LGBTQ+ issues,” he says. “There was a place for me because there were leadership opportunities in progressive spaces—it helped me want to pursue the career I have today.”
Groh came out as gay during his sophomore year at Webb.
“I’m from Alaska,” which he describes as not very liberal, “but my friends at Webb were my family, I felt very accepted.”
In Anne Graybeal’s AP Literature class, Groh remembers reading Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize winning Angels in America, a play about the early 1980s spread of the AIDS epidemic, and a rapidly changing social and political climate.
“It was so fascinating and motivating to learn about the activism and upheaval of the gay movement in the 1980s. To learn about how much progress was made and how quickly and reflect on how far we still have to go,” he says. “Reading that and discussing it with other smart kids made me want to do something in politics or activism.”
In Iowa, Groh managed 36 offices and a staff of hundreds for the Buttigieg campaign.
“The Iowa caucuses are a unique process,” he says. “You need to be able to stand and support your candidate individually. We trained people how to talk about Pete and my staff prepared hundreds of volunteers to knock on thousands of doors.” His Webb experience as a boarder played a large part in this endeavor. Especially having to move frequently and work away from home.
“There is a confidence and strength you gain from being away at Webb; a feeling of being even-keeled,” he says. “I’ve had to move a lot and relocate quickly. The independence of going to boarding school early in life prepares you for that.”
This article is an excerpt from “Young Alumni On the Move” that appears in the Fall/Winter 2021 Webb Magazine. To read the full article, you can view or download it by clicking here.