Shalanda Young could teach a course on standing your ground, listening to people with whom you vehemently disagree and then finding enough common ground to cool hot heads and move things forward.

If you don't know who Shalanda Young is, consider these recent headlines:

Washington Post: “Shalanda Young emerges as quietly essential figure in debt deal.”

Bloomberg: “How Shalanda Young Helped Broker Biden’s Toughest Deal Yet … Louisiana native leveraged GOP relationships in tense talks.”

Yes, a young Black woman who grew up in the small towns of Clinton and Baker, outside of Baton Rouge, was the reason a debt ceiling deal got done. Young, 45, is the director of the Office of Management and Budget, one of the most important positions in the federal government — and an expert on budget matters.

A few weeks ago, President Joe Biden had a staunch "no negotiation" stance toward House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the debt ceiling. Biden wanted a clear separation between saving the nation from default and negotiating budget specifics. McCarthy was determined to cut the budget to make a political statement, despite knowing that not raising the debt limit would wreak financial havoc upon millions of Americans and the world.

McCarthy sent senior Republican officials to the negotiating table. Biden chose an unelected aide who knew more about the federal budget than anyone else in the room — including Biden.

Based on reports coming out of the negotiations, it sure looked like one side had figureheads who couldn't make a decision while the other respected and trusted Young enough to send her in with a singular order: "You make the calls."

Talks eventually got beyond Biden's "no negotiation" posture to some intense bargaining.

Ultimately, Young emerged from the talks with a tentative bipartisan deal. She joined Steve Richetti, counselor to the president and a longtime Biden insider; John Podesta, senior adviser to the president for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation; and other White House officials in presenting the plan to anxious Democrats.

Young led the presentation, laying out the plusses and minuses of the deal. She sold it to the Democratic Caucus during a closed-door meeting in the Gabriel Zimmerman Meeting Room in the U.S. Capitol. Members only. No cellphones.

“My job is to tell members what’s in the bill,” she told The Washington Post. “You get into trouble when you try to tell members what their opinion is. … Our job is to say, ‘This is what’s in the bill. This is how some of the worst things Republicans wanted were mitigated.’”

After Young finished, she received a standing ovation and teared up, according to U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, who was in the room on May 31.

"Shalanda Young is a rock star," the congressman told me Thursday. "She was not just in the room. She was the pivotal player."

McCarthy and his Republican colleagues might say otherwise, but the truth is they went for the jugular. They threatened to put the nation in default unless Biden and his team agreed to drastic cuts. They wanted to cut funding for veterans who served our country. They wanted to cut food benefits for poor people. They wanted to take away Social Security benefits.

Those ideas can be debated, but you shouldn't talk about things you want to cut in the future when it's time to pay for things you've already purchased.

Young stood her ground on core issues while listening to the Republican demands — and finding agreement.

She was ready for this moment. She spent 20 years dealing with the budget as a congressional staffer. She knew the Republicans' "tax and spend" arguments and the Democrats' desires to take care of people. She knows where the money is, and she knows the impact of budget cuts and tax increases.

Now, our nation can take a moment to exhale — and thank Young.

She built bipartisan respect because she's competent, fair, firm and willing to listen.

“Everybody in this place knows her, respects her greatly,” McCarthy told reporters last month.

"Shalanda Young is incredibly talented," U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy shared with me in a statement. "Whatever your politics, we can be proud of this native daughter of Louisiana."

Leading Democrats agree.

"Director Young’s powerful intellect, calm demeanor and relentless work ethic were essential in helping to save our economy, protect Social Security and Medicare and suspend the debt ceiling until 2025," said House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Carter added context when asked what message Young's success sends to African-American girls in Louisiana. "This could be you, too" Carter said. "A young Black woman from Clinton did this — and you can, too."

Email Will Sutton at, or follow him on Twitter, @willsutton.