Mercedes VianaHispanic Magazine.com - June 2003 - Leading Latinas - Mercedes Viana
Often speaking Spanish from her
phone in the Old Executive Office Building (adjacent to the White House), Mercedes M. Viana
is the voice of the White House for many "specialty media" outlets.
worked with Hispanic media on then-Governor Bush's presidential campaign and on the inaugural committee.Before getting involved with the Bush team, she was the Washington representative for Florida International University.She attended FIU as an undergraduate, earning a bachelor's degree-and Summa Cum Laude honors-in political science in 1994.Viana received a master's of public administration degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., in 1997.Her
job in the White House, she
says, is full of surprises."There is no average day.Every day is dealing with different issues that affect the Hispanic community, or the other portfolios that I deal with."The media outlets Viana
works with are wide-ranging-everything from women's-interest magazines to religious publications; from the glossy Glamour to the Spanish-language television network Telemundo to the Christian magazine World. Her
message, however, is no different than the president's, no matter who she
is talking with."The message is the same, just sometimes in a different language," says Viana
And don't let her
name fool you into thinking she's
just a political softie.She's
"dead-on when it comes to effective communications," says Barbara Ledeen, director of outreach at the Senate Republican Conference.On issues such as the Miguel Estrada nomination fight in the Senate, says Ledeen, Viana
"keeps mistakes from happening.
...It's "a very good investment" to have people like Viana on the White House team, says Manuel Miranda, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
is married to Matt Schlapp, another key administration official, special assistant to the president and deputy director of political affairs, working under Karl Rove.
The White House's "top-down" emphasis on family, faith, and "keeping yourself physically and mentally sound" is an important part of the administration, and essential to her
functioning, says Viana
, a Catholic."We feel very blessed."
And not just about their marriage."It has been such an honor to serve such a strong, solid leader."For Viana
, the daughter of a Cuban dissident, it is the only place she
can imagine being at this moment in history."My father has been an incredible role model and inspiration in my life.He
has taught me about the importance of freedom," says Viana
."President Bush," she
says, "carries that same value.He
appreciates freedom; he
values freedom.That's why it's so easy and such an honor to work for this president-because I believe that.It is so important in all our lives, and I grew up knowing that."
To top off her
busy and successful young life, Viana
is also at work on the next generation of faithful freedom lovers-Mercy and Matt's first child is due this month.