Xavier DeGroat, an autism advocate and Michigan college student, just finished what is believed to be a historic experience as the first White House intern with autism.
“It means a lot that I interned at the White House and became the first autistic White House intern,” the 30-year-old told Fox News in an interview published Thursday.
DeGroat believes he is the first documented White House intern formally diagnosed with the disorder, based on archival research conducted alongside the White House Historical Association and the Library of Congress.
The Lansing, Mich., native went on to tell the network that he had “always kind of thought of” breaking barriers in the White House, saying it would help him “inspire other people to not let their disability stop them from going after high-profile or high-up things.”
DeGroat’s three-month internship began in September, during which he was assigned to the presidential correspondence office responding to letters people wrote to the commander-in-chief.
While he didn’t have regular contact with President Trump, the two have met twice.
The first time, DeGroat explained, was through their mutual connection, Rudy Giuliani, who arranged a sit-down between the two in the Oval Office back in August 2019.
Asked about the meeting and their relationship, Giuliani described DeGroat as “my hero.”
“[Trump] really liked him,” the president’s personal attorney recalled. “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, according to Giuliani, responded to Trump with a smile, warning, “If I started calling you up, you would know I was autistic. I would just call you all the time.”
Giuliani went on to say that DeGroat and others with autism being included in workspaces and the White House is a benefit to all.
“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,” the former New York City mayor went on to say, referencing his internship.
DeGroat was able to meet the president on one other occasion, when he received a quick photo op with Trump along with other interns.
As for what he’ll do next, DeGroat told the network he wants to advise presidents on autism the way the late Rev. Billy Graham provided spiritual counsel to commanders-in-chief.
“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. 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,” he said.