Love Constant Presence by Obama's Side With Dental Floss in Hand
Reggie Love walked into his windowless office late last week and surveyed the confines. It wasn't exactly an ideal place to work, especially for someone standing 6 feet, 5 inches. A burgundy couch, desk and cabinet took up much of the floor, leaving little room to maneuver.
"The space is small," Love said. "But the real estate is valuable."
Nearly every day, Love takes a right turn out of his office, walks a few steps and opens a door to the most famous office in the world: the Oval Office. Whatever President Obama happens to need once inside, from a copy of a speech to a newspaper, Love gets for him. As the president's personal assistant – a job known as a body man – Love also keeps him on schedule, often deciding who gets the president's ear.
The 29-year-old Love hardly ever speaks on the record. But after the White House announced 12 days ago that he would be leaving his position by the end of the year to attend the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, he granted an exclusive interview to ESPN's Rachel Nichols, providing a rare glimpse inside the president's inner circle.
Love is almost always by Obama's side, working up to 18 hours a day and often sleeping on the burgundy couch. He carries around a bag filled with anything the president might need in a pinch, like collar stays, Tide stain remover and dental products. Obama has no qualms about flossing his teeth with Love in the room.
"If he had it his way, I think he'd floss in private," Love said, noting how little time the president spends away from his closest aides. "I think the fact that he was comfortable with me is probably a product of, you know, he's beaten down. I've been around for so long." Tune in Tuesday to "World News with Diane Sawyer" at 6:30 p.m. ET and "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET for Rachel Nichol's interview with Reggie Love
Affable and outgoing, Love joined Obama's Senate office in 2006. He started in the mail room and was quickly promoted to body man. But he has risen to more than a presidential aide. Obama frequently refers to Love as a little brother, making him the informal First Brother if you will.
"His ability to juggle so many responsibilities with so little sleep has been an inspiration to watch," Obama said in a statement last week. "He is the master of what he does."
One thing Love does to perfection is help make the president look hip. He taught Obama how to fist-bump, bought him a silver iPod for his birthday and introduced him to the music of Lil Wayne and Jay-Z. Last year, Obama playfully referred to Love as his "iReggie."
"The president has to deal with so many things that are heavy," Love said. "I think it's good to be able to, for him, to have some moments of levity, some moments not full-tilt. And if me being a part of (those) moments is helpful, I acknowledge and think I'm happy to do it."
The bond between Love and Obama was solidified on a basketball court. The pair played pickup games regularly during the presidential campaign, a tradition that has carried over to the South Lawn of the White House. Love, who was a star wide receiver on the football team and captain of the basketball team at Duke, rarely plays against Obama.
"Reggie is 20 years younger than me," Obama said during the campaign. "So there is no doubt that I have to have Reggie on my team. I can't be guarding Reggie."
Love and Obama are also seasoned travel teammates. According to a group of researchers at ABC News, they have flown some 880,780 miles together since the start of the presidential campaign. When two people spend that much time together, they're bound to get on each other's nerves. So, what does Obama do that makes Love's skin crawl?
"The thing that used to kill me is that the guy loves to ride around with the AC off in the summertime," Love said. "And I get hot. I start sweating. And I'm like, it's 80 degrees in this car. I'm going to pass out."
Only when beads of sweat begin to roll down Love's face will Obama relinquish his presidential powers and agree to use the air conditioner.
The stifling car rides aside, Love admits he landed a dream job, one that comes with a front-row seat to history – literally. So why on Earth is he leaving to become a student? The demands on his time, he said, were becoming too great ever since he started taking classes on a part-time basis at Wharton earlier this year. When Obama gave a speech at the White House Correspondents' dinner in April, hours before the U.S. launched a raid on Osama Bin Laden's house, Love was off studying for a midterm.
Still, the decision to leave the White House for a classroom was extremely difficult. Before making it final, Love consulted with his closest colleague.
"I said, 'Mister President, I just wanted to get your advice and your opinion on this. I'm thinking that maybe I need to spend more time focusing on school and taking some time off of here,' " Love said. "And he was very supportive of it."
Asked to describe what his last day might be like, Love seemed to get emotional. He later said he planned to regularly keep in touch with Obama and might just drop by the White House one day to have lunch with him.
Love said he felt fortunate to be a "very long passenger on an amazing ride." But it's the mundane things about the job he will cherish most. On most nights, as Obama leaves the Oval Office for the second-floor residence, he pops his head into Love's office for a quick briefing on the next day's schedule and then says goodnight.
"I know definitely I'm going to miss that," Love said. "He's been like big brother to me, a mentor. I've learned so much about life from him. I've spent most of my adult life working for him, so it's going to be a challenge. A pretty big challenge."