When Chris Ferrari, BC ’20, became interested in politics in high school, he didn’t envision himself working for the United States Senate right out of college. But COVID-19 threw him a curveball and opened a door—quite literally—to an opportunity working as a doorkeeper and Senate Chamber assistant in the Capitol. Also unexpected for Ferrari, was Jan. 6. On the day of the Capitol insurrection, Ferrari was on the clock.
That day, Ferrari said, all of the Chamber assistants were not working their usual shift schedule. They were prepared for a busy day, but the chaos that ensued exceeded expectations, he said.
When the senators were certifying President Joe Biden’s Electoral College votes, Ferrari stayed in the Chamber and waited for the senators to return. That is when things took a turn.
“I was one of the lucky ones that was near the Chamber,” Ferrari said. “We were safe at the end of the day, but it was so unprecedented. We have the drills, but you never go in and think ‘Oh, I’m going to have to use that knowledge today.’”
Despite all of the hysteria and confusion, Ferrari had one thought running through his head.
“I thought I was going to die,” Ferrari said. “I was totally prepared. I was sending texts left and right, and I was getting them too … One of my friends texted me and said, ‘Crazy day at work, huh?’”
Growing up in Tulsa, Okla., Ferrari couldn’t have imagined being part of such a historic day, especially since he didn’t even have an interest in politics. When he was younger, he wanted to be an engineer, but as he got older his interests shifted and he ultimately double majored in political science and communication.
It wasn’t until his junior year of high school that Ferrari took an interest in politics. The year before, his mother, a former bill clerk at the U.S. Capitol, suggested that he look into becoming a Senate page. He spent a semester during his junior year with 27 other high school students from around the country. That experience, he said, ultimately shifted his gaze toward a possible future in politics.
“It was definitely the page program that shifted my mentality,” Ferrari said. “… Being on the floor where they declared we were going to go into World War II, where the Civil Rights Act was passed, and I’m sitting there on this historical ground. It just kind of hits you slowly, just a slow punch in the face saying, ‘This is dope. You should do it.’”
Once he got to BC, his experience was shaped by organizations and extracurriculars like Sexual Chocolate and 48Hours. In his freshman year Perspectives class, he met one of his best friends, Nate Janda, BC ’20.
“He’s a great guy,” Janda said. “He’s kinda always been there for me since we started school and has been really dedicated through college.”
When searching for a post-graduation job, Ferrari wasn’t looking at jobs in D.C., he said. It wasn’t until he was talking with Janda one day that the idea of living and working in Washington, D.C. really stuck with him.
“I wasn’t really even thinking about D.C.,” Ferrari said. “I was thinking about staying in Boston or even going to New York … For whatever reason, I was sitting up with [Janda], and I was like, ‘Dude, let’s go to D.C. together.’”
With the onset of COVID-19, searching for a fulfilling job was tough, Ferrari said. But thanks to some connections he had in the Capitol, he was able to get his foot in the door, he said.
“The main way you get a job [in the Senate] is through connections,” Ferrari said. “I worked for an Oklahoman senator, so I ended up having those connections.”
Ferrari started out as a doorkeeper for the Senate in July. This job consisted of upholding the rules of the Chamber and helping the senators navigate their way between the buildings. The majority of doorkeepers in their early twenties push elevator buttons for the senators, but in Ferrari’s eyes, it was a job that could possibly lead to a future career in politics, he said.
In September, he became a Chamber assistant, working on the Senate floor, assisting senators, clerks, and cloakroom staff.
One part of his job that Ferrari said has been particularly rewarding is the day-to-day interactions with senators and staff. An outgoing guy, Ferrari said, he lives off conversation and making new connections within his workplace, something that’s rare during COVID-19.
The Senate can’t conduct business over Zoom, Ferrari said, so the face-to-face interactions of his job have been extra meaningful during a time when so many people are working remotely.
The day after the insurrection, Ferrari channeled his trauma into something he could use to cope—a TikTok video. The video—which showed a picture of him counting the electoral ballots and then a clip of him being evacuated—gained over 500,000 likes and 2.3 million views before he deleted it over security concerns.
Ferrari said that he uses humor to come to terms with what’s happening around him—something his friends say may be his greatest downfall, but what Ferrari considers to be his biggest strength.
“I chose TikTok mainly [because] I didn’t really have any followers on there that knew me,” Ferrari said. “… I just kind of thought of it as the best place to just throw something up that I thought might mitigate some of the stress from what had just happened.”
He learned that TikTok can reach a lot of people, regardless of accounts’ followers. Other social media platforms like Twitter or Reddit do not feel as personal, Ferrari said.
“The comments [on TikTok] were so caring and interrogatory that it just felt like I was connecting with people,” Ferrari said. “That should be the goal of any representative is to be able to connect with constituents.”
Rob Martinez, CSOM ’21, wasn’t phased when he saw Ferrari—his former Sexual Chocolate teammate—go viral.
“Chris has a very outgoing personality,” Martinez said. “I wasn’t surprised that he went viral, I was just surprised … that was the video that made him go viral because he already created content.”
Ferrari said his own viral video has given him an interest in the use of media platforms like TikTok in campaigns for politicians like Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff.
“You think the way to win a political campaign is to have the most money,” Ferrari said. “With media platforms like TikTok, I didn’t need to pay a dollar for 2.3 million people to see the video … I think that’s another thing it showed me is that it doesn’t matter if you’re poor or rich, you can still have those platforms.”
Despite its virality, Ferrari ended up taking down his video for job security reasons. His coworkers’ reactions were a mix between wondering why he was viral and wondering if he was allowed to post anything at all, he said. Unless you have a familiarity with the Capitol, he said, you wouldn’t be able to tell where the recording was taken because he cut out people and places for security reasons.
“I ended up deleting it out of concern for my job,” Ferrari said. “Because there were other things that we were hearing about from the Sergeant at Arms and stuff like that. I just wanted to make sure that didn’t interfere with my own aspirations.”
Alongside the in-person nature of his job that enabled Ferrari to witness monumental historical events like the insurrection, he said that he also values the nonpartisanship of it. One of his priorities as a budding politician or lawyer is remaining open to both political parties and taking ideas from both sides, he said.
“I personally am more moderate,” Ferrari said. “My job is nonpartisan right now, luckily. I think that’s honestly the most important thing to me right now.”
Ferrari’s aspirations don’t end at just being a Senate aide. He hopes to go to law school in the near future and remind politicians on both sides that they all share a goal of fostering a better United States for its future citizens, he said.
“I would hope that my experience, both as a page and through that whole event and through my job, has really shown me that I do have really high aspirations for myself to one day hold office,” Ferrari said. “… In order to try and set this precedent that we don’t have to be at each other’s necks. Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, there is common ground.”
Photo Courtesy of Chris Ferrari