The Christmas season is meant for spreading joy and goodwill, and what better place to start than the White House?
This is a special story about a special man, a 30-year-old college student from Michigan, hired as a White House Intern.
Xavier DeGroat has autism and is one of the first autistic people to be awarded the much sought after position. “It means a lot that I interned at the White House and became [among] the first autistic White House intern[s],” DeGroat, 30, told Fox News in an interview published Thursday, Dec. 24.
“I’ve always kind of thought of doing that so I can inspire other people to not let their disability stop them from going after high-profile or high-up things, and dreams will come true.”
He started the Lansing-based Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation in 2018 to help others with autism overcome obstacles, reported Fox News.
DeGroat, an autism advocate and student at Northwood University, where he’s studying politics and communications, had worked in the presidential correspondence office, tasked with replying to letters the public wrote to the president.
Although he had seen the president in passing, it wasn’t until three months ago that President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani set up a face-to-face meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office.
Giuliani, who said he considers DeGroat “my hero,” had cemented a friendship with him several years ago.
At the 30-minute meeting with the president, he impressed the commander in chief, recalled Giuliani. “He really liked him [DeGroat],” Guiliani recalled of the White House meeting. “He actually said in the middle of the conversation, ‘If you hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have known that you were autistic.'”
DeGroat, who was feeling very relaxed with the president, responded with humor, said Giuliani. “He teased and said, ‘If I started calling you up, you would know I was autistic. I would just call you all the time.'”
DeGroat spoke to the president about the difficulties experienced by those with autism and explained he aimed to instigate change in state and federal laws to improve the relationship between law enforcement agents and those on the spectrum.
DeGroat has difficulty dealing with change, has sensory sensitivity, anxiety, and exhibits compulsive behavior.
This may show itself in his persistence to set up a meeting with officials, where he may be persistent in ringing, something other staff may help explain to individuals.
After arriving at the White House in September, he had a great record of getting laws passed and was able to have photographs taken with famous people, including the Dalai Lama and former President Obama.
Giuliani said he had to explain to his own staff in the past to be patient with DeGroat. It is important to include people who are different in the White House to help bridge the gap between those who are perceived to be different and those so-called normal individuals.
“I think he’s been good for the president and good for the White House. A lot of people have no exposure to people with autism. Or they don’t even realize they’re having it. And once they do, they almost always come away with a very different view of it, and a much more understanding view of it,” he said.
“The real question is not how much money do you give to these causes, but how much do you really care about people?” Guiliani said.
“The White House, at this point, is going to be my permanent institution that I work with to make differences for people on a spectrum,” DeGroat told Fox. “I know this sounds interesting or weird, but have you ever heard of Billy Graham? I want to be considered the evangelist for autism to all presidents in the future.”