Behind the Scenes: Going to the Olympics With Ivanka

July 25, 2021

Attending the Olympics was a dream come true, especially as part of the official delegation representing our country. It was incredible to meet so many of the athletes representing our country, so now it makes me sad to see people using these Olympic Games as a platform to bash America. Millions of people all over the world would do just about anything to be an American, a privilege many of us all too often take for granted. As the American flag waves proudly, it is a reminder for all to respect the sacrifice made by our brave soldiers to protect our freedoms. I am proud to cheer on Team USA!

In February 2018, I had the honor of attending the Winter Olympics in South Korea as a member of the official American delegation led by Ivanka Trump. I had dreamed of going to the Olympics since I was a kid. I love America and I love sports—so really what could be better? When Ivanka invited me to be part of the US delegation, at first, I thought she must be kidding, but she told me it was already done, and I had been cleared to go. I couldn’t have been more excited. I knew this trip was more than just the Olympics—the escalating conflict with North Korea would play a major role. 

The team from the White House included Ivanka, her chief of staff, Julie Radford, a fellow mom to three young kids and close confidante; senior advisor to General McMaster and the NSC staff Sarah Flaherty; and NSC Korean specialist Allison Hooker. The incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jim Risch (R-ID) also joined our delegation.

As our delegation landed in South Korea, the administration announced the toughest sanctions ever against North Korea. We knew our job had just gotten more difficult.

Our first stop was all business. Ivanka, and the other members of the delegation, including Senator Risch; General Vincent Brooks, the commander of United States Forces Korea; Mark Knapper, the Chargé d’Affaires for South Korea; and I had a small private dinner at the Blue House with President Moon, his wife, and Kang Kyung-wha, the South Korean foreign minister. Tonight was different because Ivanka was the principal, and was expected to carry the water not just for her father, but for the country. Her hard work paid off. She was engaging and knew personal details about our dinner hosts that kept the conversation moving and interesting. She managed to find common interests to discuss, even getting the South Korean first lady to open up and throw her head back in laughter at one point. It was impressive.

The South Korean first lady as well as Olympic gold medalist Angela Ruggiero joined us the next day to watch Team USA men compete in snowboarding, bobsledding, and curling.

We had a blast cheering on our Olympians. I never thought I could get so excited about curling, but the atmosphere was electric and the crowd, including our delegation, went crazy when Team USA defeated Sweden 10–7 to win the gold. Our time at the games closed hanging out and taking photos with the internationally acclaimed K-pop group EXO, who had performed at the ceremonies. It was quite the contrast: one minute we had been discussing how to engage with one of the world’s most evil regimes and the next we were snapping pics with a Korean boy band.

Just hours before the closing ceremony began, South Korean president Moon met with North Korean general Kim Yong-chol. Moon had announced following their meeting that the North Koreans were open to talks with the United States. This announcement came just three days after President Trump issued the largest sanctions ever against North Korea. Near the conclusion of the Winter Olympics from South Korea I announced: President Donald J. Trump’s Administration is committed to achieving the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The United States, our Olympic Host the Republic of Korea, and the international community broadly agree that denuclearization must be the result of any dialogue with North Korea. The maximum pressure campaign must continue until North Korea denuclearizes.

Weeks later, North Korea indicated they were open to direct talks with President Trump about denuclearization, and they’d be willing to suspend nuclear and missile tests, a huge win for the administration.

Thank you for reading,