Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Alum Takes Already Storied Career to Washington

Heidi Toth

July 21, 2015

Noah McCullough, a former congressional intern and 2015 graduate, was hired straight out of college to work in Sen. John Cornyn’s majority whip office.

Noah McCullough
Noah McCullough

Noah McCullough is a wee bit precocious.

He became interested in politics watching the coverage of the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. He was 5 years old.

He became a correspondent on "The Tonight Show" when he was in third grade. That led to appearances on other TV shows, including "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien."

At the ripe old age of 10, he toured with President Bush, who was pitching his new Social Security plan. That led to authoring books while he was still in elementary school.

All of that preceded McCullough, a 2015 Texas Tech University graduate, being the first person hired into Texas Sen. John Cornyn's majority whip office immediately after graduating.

"For me, presidential trivia was a hobby," he said. "Some kids collected Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, some kids collected sports cards. For me, I really enjoyed collecting presidential trivia.

"I was just an ordinary kid with an unusual hobby, and it ended up leading to some really cool opportunities."

Interning and working

McCullough had his eye on Texas Tech before finishing high school in Clayton, New Mexico. He wanted a political career in his future and was familiar with the university's congressional internship program, which sent interns to Washington, D.C., every semester and provided a living stipend.

"One of the things that brought me to Tech was the congressional internship program they had, and the more I went along in school I realized that was an opportunity I wanted to take advantage of," he said. "I thought a career on Capitol Hill might be interesting, and an internship would be a good segue to that."

The financial aid helped out too.

"I wouldn't have been able to do an unpaid internship for four months with my own resources," he said.

He came to Lubbock, majored in political science and economics and spent the last semester of his senior year in Washington, interning for Sen. Cornyn. For the four months he was in D.C. he introduced himself, shook hands and let people know he was interested in a full-time position.

All the work paid off when a position in Cornyn's Senate majority whip office opened up. He took it, becoming the first staffer in the whip office to be hired right out of college. He moved out of the Tech House, flew back to Lubbock on May 14, attended graduation and returned to D.C. May 17 to start work the next day, this time as a staffer and resident of the nation's capitol.

His day still includes a lot of grunt work. He sorts press releases and media posts, creates daily press reports for Cornyn and his staff, runs errands, writes a weekly memo summarizing the activities of each senator and escorts groups to and from the Senate floor. The whip's office, which is separate from Cornyn's Senate office, is responsible for finding out how senators feel about bills, whether those bills have the necessary votes to pass and getting the votes as needed.

Noah McCullough's View
McCullough's view of the Capitol dome from his desk

"When we're out of session, it's very, very slow, but when we're in session it's very, very hectic," he said. "When there are votes on the floor it can be pretty crazy."

His willingness to do whatever was necessary played a big role in why he was hired, said Gabi Everett from Cornyn's office.

"The process of filling this role is competitive, but Noah was a hard-working intern who made himself a valuable asset," she said. "He paid close attention to how the office operated, made himself available to staff and always had a 'whatever it takes' attitude when doing the less than glamorous work. The fact that he is not entitled given his knowledge and background says a lot about his character and work ethic. He earned this spot 100 percent."

McCullough's first two months have been a great experience, he said. He admires Cornyn and appreciates the opportunity to work with him, he likes interacting with other members of Congress and he knows he's doing valuable work, which is fulfilling.

When he's lacking for inspiration he just sits back and looks out the window.

"I've got a really cool view of the Capitol dome from my desk," he said. "It's kinda cool at your entry level job you get to have that kind of view."

Where he came from and where he's going

When he was 13, in an interview with Scholastic Books, McCullough remembered the mock election his kindergarten class did in 2000. His friends voted on who looked the coolest. He asked a bunch of questions about the candidates' positions on different issues, and for his effort to be part of an informed electorate was banned from voting.

That jump-started the hobby that has morphed into a career. He came to the national stage after someone recorded him in a second-grade talent show discussing presidents and sent it to Jay Leno, host of "The Tonight Show," leading to multiple TV appearances as a third-grader. That led to a tour with President George W. Bush to discuss Social Security when he was in fourth grade.

"That led to the opportunity to write the books," he said.

He authored "The Essential Book of Presidential Trivia" and "First Kids: The True Stories of all the Presidents' Children."

Politics, to say the least, is McCullough's passion and he has no plans to leave anytime soon. He wants a career in policymaking and plans to run for office one day. He's thinking about law school, which would fit into his skill set and goals, but he hasn't decided on anything for sure yet.

Until then, he's pretty comfortable with where he is.

"I feel like D.C. is a place where a lot of times opportunities open up where you wouldn't necessarily expect," McCullough said. "I'm keeping an open mind because I want to see what all is out there."