Ritsch "holds the megaphone" of the Education Department, as he puts it. In his four years as assistant secretary for communications and outreach, he has done all he can to make the megaphone a communal one. "This agency was not viewed as a helpful partner for a long time," he said. "We've been doing our best to change that perception and really involve teachers in what they're doing." Universal preschool will be "our big play" in Obama's second term, Ritsch said. "To make preschool for all happen, we need to make the case this is an investment worth making, even in these fiscally challenged times." Originally from Richmond, Va., Ritsch, 37, got his start in journalism in 1998, covering education for five years at the Los Angeles Times right out of Princeton University before making the jump to communications. He was tracking campaign financing at the Center for Responsive Politics when he "snuck in the door" at the Education Department in April 2009 as deputy assistant secretary for external affairs and outreach. The dry, lighthearted way Ritsch describes his career ascension is typical of his personality. He jokingly calls himself an "irrepressibly charming Renaissance man" before earnestly settling on "the kind of person who takes work seriously, but not myself seriously."