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The Path of a Servant Leader

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

The Path of a Servant Leader

by Kate Downing

Rayshon Payton (BA '10) with President Biden.

Rayshon Payton (BA ’10) set an upward trajectory for his future from an early age with his skill, talent and perseverance earning him a spot on the OCU men’s golf team. After four years at OCU as an engaged leader and student-athlete, he went on to earn his law degree, intern at the White House and eventually move to Washington, D.C., in 2013, where he kicked off his career. Payton currently serves in the Office of Legislative Affairs as senior confirmations counsel at the White House.

He explains how his experience at OCU helped to prepare for his future. “The conversations with colleagues and professors along with the small class sizes and individual attention was key for me,” he said. “The course I took in Constitutional Law as a political science major really stands out as it articulated what law was and was not and harnessed my analytical skills in the process.” Payton also took a course from Mohamed Daadaoui that gave him a more holistic view of political science.

Payton was fascinated by the practical application of law and how he saw it portrayed in society but especially how law could help communities in need. The role of a lawyer as an advocate was something that appealed to Payton and encouraged him to continue onto law school. This notion that he could assist others while following his passion began his servant-leadership journey. Payton says, “Servant-leadership is the heart of all great teams, serving others prepares you to lead.”

After interning his first summer with the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office, he applied for, and was awarded, a competitive White House internship during his second summer of law school. Payton described it, saying, “The impact of everything I experienced while there, I knew this was what I wanted to do.” In his position now, he works with nominees in advancing appointment confirmations and other interests within Congress.

Payton encourages others who want a career in politics and servant leadership to work hard and value the relationships and friendships that come along the way. He says, “In conversations, empathize with the other person, work to find common ground and truly try to solve any issues you can.” Payton also is a firm believer in enjoying a well-rounded life. A high stakes political career in Washington, D.C., can take its toll. He finds it essential to incorporate other interests into his busy schedule, such as returning to his golfing roots or watching a Monday night football game. Creating this work-life balance is important.

When asked what is next for him, Payton had a simple servant-hearted response all could try to embody. “I am content continuing to positively impact the world and the spaces around me.”

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