Rawlinson's post in the White House Fellows program promises a close-up view of a historic moment in American political history.
It's the latest honor for the Northwestern High School alumnus and son of former Sunset Park Elementary School principal David Rawlinson. In May, the younger Rawlinson graduated from Harvard Business School.
He'll join 13 other young adults chosen by a White House committee from a field of more than 1,000 applicants to take part in the Fellows program.
As a young, black Republican, Rawlinson, 32, brings an uncommon perspective. He spoke to The Herald on Tuesday:
Q: What will you do at the White House?
A: "We'll either get an assignment with a White House senior staff member or an assignment with the head of a department. Something in the White House would be great, but State, Defense, Homeland Security -- they all have interesting stuff going on.
"A big part of what we're going to do is prepare the transition (to the next president). It's a pretty special year to be involved. My first boss will be President Bush, but my second boss will be President McCain or President Obama."
Q: Morale seems pretty low in the Republican Party these days. Why is that, and what's the cure?
A: "The party has been in power, and the nation is in a pretty insecure place right now. I saw a poll in USA Today that said we've reached a point where a majority of people don't think their children's lives will be better than their own. They look up to see who's in power, and they see Republicans.
"Smart people have to get together and reimagine what the next century in this country is going to look like. If (Republicans) can articulate a new vision for the future, then everything else will take care of itself."
Q: How do you separate your pride in Barack Obama's presumed nomination as the first black to lead his party's ticket from your disagreements with him politically?
A: "I feel extraordinary pride in Obama and the way he's handled himself. And I'm proud of this moment. But I still have profound disagreements with Obama on policy issues.
"If you think America's greatness is not assured and we have to get to the right answers, the personality matters a lot less than the policy. I can feel extraordinary pride in Obama, but at the same time feel pretty deeply convicted that we have to get the answers right."
Q: You considered running for Congress against U.S. Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C. Looking back, how do you feel about your decision not to do it?
A: "It was the right decision for me. Running against Spratt was an idea that was brought to me by a number of people in the state party. The first call I got was from the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee). It was never something that was my idea.
"Anybody who takes on Spratt is taking on a load. That would have been especially true during this cycle. I'd rather see somebody else in that seat, but I do have respect for Spratt. That played a part in it as well."
Q: What's your plan after the White House?
A: "I'd love to live in Rock Hill again. Maybe I'll work in Charlotte. Going back to law is something I'm pretty open to. There's also a number of fields in business I'd be open to, maybe at a bank or private equity or venture capital firm. There's a number of places I could see myself."