note: this is from a post in June 2010, recapping our trip to meet President Obama. I deleted the previous post, because I completely forgot some insane troll decided to spam me with a bajillion shitty comments, and I don’t tolerate no trolls on this drawbridge. So I’m reposting it for the sake of posterity. I’ll have a new post soon.
So, yesterday, I met President Barack Obama.
I’ll try and remember everything, but so much came at me in the twelve hours I spent in Washington, some of it is a grand blur. The day began at the unsaintly hour of 5:25 AM because a certain insane person scheduled our flight at 7:30 and another, even more insane person had to take fifty bobby pins out of her hair. Yes, ladies and gents. I pincurled my hair for Obama. I was a glass of Ovaltine away from being a 50s housewife.
After wolfing down a cherry smoothie and toast for breakfast (and packing a granola bar because lunch wouldn’t be until 2:30!), I drove with Dad to TAC Air accompanied by Jenna and Todd, who were making the trip in lieu of my brother and Mom. Mom met Obama last year with us, so unlike me, she decided to stay home.
The plane ride to Washington was uneventful, save for a slightly heated debate between Dad and I about the differences between Republicans and Democrats. Honestly, I have no problem with fiscal Republicans. Indeed, I myself probably identify more with them than I do with fiscal Democrats; I believe in the value of really working for your money and not expecting the government to do everything for you. It’s the social aspect of Democratic Liberalism that I really identify with, and I kept trying to explain that to Dad (who is a SERIOUS fiscal conservative) and it turned into a huge thing. I blame CD, who brought up politics in the first place. That being said, Dad really likes Obama and voted for him, so the day wasn’t awkward in the slightest in that respect. We also had the same ideas about how to deal with the immigration issues, but when Dad suggested I tell them to the President, I just laughed. Why the heck would I ruin a perfectly pleasant photo-op with talk of the mess in AZ? Although sidebar: AZ, you are horrifying to the rest of the country (at least, the smart, sane parts). The last time the words ‘show me your papers’ were uttered in the past hundred years, a certain annoying man with a mustache was ruling Germany.
Anyway!! We landed in the midst of a very wet and rainy Baltimore Airport, and Dad proceeded to tell us that the drive to Walter Reed Hospital would take about half an hour to forty-five minutes. It took an hour and a half. I slept for about forty-five minutes of it on Dad’s shoulder, and I woke up with a crick in my neck and a view of nonstop traffic for the next few miles. When we finally got to Walter Reed, we split up into our designated two groups. Group 1, my group, consisted of the team and additional staffers like Rosie and our videographer Keith, my family, and a few trustees along with Jeff Hathaway, and we went into the main hospital to talk to the ‘Wounded Warriors.’ Group two went to the veterans center and met with the soldiers there.
Meeting the injured soldiers was humbling. We had to get our hands sprayed with disinfectant when entering and exiting a patient’s room. Cards were displayed on the walls from discharged soldiers thanking the hospital staff. And it was surprising how many of them had great senses of humor about their situation. The first guy we met, an SPC who had been stationed in Afghanistan, had only been overseas for three months and hadn’t seen a lick of combat before his injury. A bomb ended up exploding near him, breaking a few bones in his legs. He was my favorite out of all of the guys because of the amazing personality, humor, and wit he displayed. He had zero qualms about showing us his x-rays and spoke with almost gleeful zest about his shattered femur. He was also a Watertown, CT, native, and when he found out my sister teaches at the highschool his own alma mater is rivals with, he immediately called out “We are going to kick your ass this year!”
Not all of the soldiers were so forthcoming. One man, a sergeant, had only arrived the day before after being injured last week. He was covered in a blanket so I couldn’t see his wounds, but they seemed severe. We asked him questions and he answered them truthfully, but all the while his eyes wandered back to his TV, which was positioned above his bed in front of his face, and his face was glazed over in an expression that said, “How did I get here?”
The common denominator of all the men there? When asked if they’ll go back to their posts overseas, they immediately said yes.
While we were waiting for Group 2 to get back, I chatted with Maya and Jenna for a bit and Jenna accidentally let it slip that not only would Barack be greeting us, so would Michelle Obama! Maya and I totally freaked out. As much as I love Obama, I think I love Michelle even more. I find her to be such an incredible example of a strong, healthy, passionate, powerful woman. Her commitment to children’s health is something I find so inspiring, and her marriage to Obama is such a great example of what makes a union work. Plus, I worked at J.Crew during election season 2008, and when she wore that geometric patterned skirt and sweater on Jay Leno, our sales went through the roof.
After Walter Reed, we hopped back on the bus and drove to D.C. After walking up to the White House gate with Dad, he had to turn around to grab his I.D. (after he reminded me fifteen times last night ‘make sure you’ve got your I.D.! DO YOU HAVE YOUR I.D.?!’). I ended up walking with Rosie because she had an umbrella and I had left my jacket on the bus.
After going through security and walking into the East Wing, we were greeted by the same White House staffers that had briefed us last year. It was a real treat to see them again, as I had thought them to be quite professional and very nice. They took us on the tour, which I thought would be a total retread of last year’s, but the guy who took us was actually the same guy as last year so he thought he should come up with new trivia for us to learn, so despite walking through the same hallways and rooms and hearing a bit of the same stuff as last year-no way, the Jackie Kennedy Garden is named after Jackie Kennedy? Surely you jest!-there were a lot of very fun facts to be gleaned from it regardless.
My favorite tidbit was the one about President Tyler, who demanded his official presidential portrait be painted of him holding a piece of crumpled up newspaper in his hand to show his hatred of the press. When asked by the painter if he was sure about that choice, Tyler retorted, “Who’s the President? Me or you?” We also learned where the phrase ‘mind your beeswax’ comes from; during the 1800s, makeup was made of the stuff, and if you sat too close to a fireplace, it would melt right off. A screen was constructed to be placed in front of the fire so the flames wouldn’t get into the makeup, but if you still suffered from melty makeup, someone would say to you, “Madam, mind your beeswax” and you’d dash off to the powder room for a reapplying and…I don’t know what else happened at White House parties in the 1800s. Snuff-taking? Debates over cigars? Pistol-whipping?
Another fun fact: The West Wing was built by Teddy Roosevelt after he told his daughter she could ride her pony around the East Room ballroom, and the noise drove him to such distraction he was forced to construct a whole new chunk of the House. Cool dad you got there, Alice. Also, Teddy Roosevelt got frickin’ SHOT while he delivered a speech and KEPT. DELIVERING. HIS. SPEECH. #badass
Due to the inclement weather the press conference was held in that East Room, where Obama signed the new health care bill into law. Therefore, it’s the same room where Joe Biden said ‘This is a big fucking deal’, which I got a HUGE kick out of. Jenna and I tried to go downstairs to use the bathroom but we were told Michelle was on her way up, so we immediately scampered back to the holding area!
We ended up waiting in the Blue Room, which is directly below the Oval Office, after leaving our bags in the Dining Room (including all cameras, so sadly I didn’t get any candids of anyone). The wait was different from last year. Last year, there was a deadly silence, like people were afraid to even breathe. This year, everyone was talking and relaxed. Our awesome organizer led Jenna, Todd, Dad and I to the side of the room Barack and Michelle would be entering from so we’d get to greet them first. Jenna had the unfortunate position of being first among us, and she turned to us with panic in her eyes, saying “I don’t want to be first! What do I do?!”
But it was too late. Because no sooner had she turned around to freak out…there they were.
“Jenna, turn around!” I hissed.
She turned, and her eyes grew to a size I thought only existed in Japanese animation. Because there they were. The President and the First Lady. Barack Obama just high-fived my Dad.
First of all, the room went silent again just like last year, but this time it wasn’t the kind of silence where you could tell the majority of people in the room were trying very hard not to wet themselves (and I include myself in this category). This time, it was a respectful, giddy silence. Although when they saw Michelle (which was a surprise to everyone except Maya), they all kind of squealed and jumped a bit.
Obama looked about the same as last year, except thinner and grayer around the temples. He’s still an extraordinarily handsome individual, and this time he didn’t smell like smoke. Michelle Obama, I must say, is almost unreal looking. She’s that gorgeous (and, I must say, ripped. Jenna and I couldn’t stop talking about her eyebrows, oddly enough. They are perfectly shaped! As I shook her hand I wanted so badly to mention how I loved her work with kids, and how I worked at J.Crew, and how much I respected her as a strong role model for young girls…but all that came out was, ‘HI IT’S SO NICE TO MEET YOU’ while I tried not to stare at her humongous diamond earrings, which were the only fancy things about her outfit (J.Crew city-fit cargo pants and flats! Represent!). She mentioned to us that she didn’t come down for any other sports teams aside from this one, not even the Lakers, as Barack pointed out. “She doesn’t come down for ANY of this stuff!” Also, the connection he and Michelle have as a couple is pretty extraordinary to witness. They walked in barely three centimeters apart from each other, and display wonderful chemistry. When Barack talked to us, I managed to sneak some peeks at his wedding ring – I have a thing about ring design.
After the picture, Barack and Michelle went to meet with the rest of the team while Jenna and Todd and I made our way to our seats in the East Room. The speech was pretty standard and it’s been transcribed elsewhere, although the lines about Dad not being able to do math and our winning streak extending back to when Obama got elected were hilarious. We gave him the gifts of a jersey with his name on it and a signed basketball, and Dad managed to throw in a few one-liners of his own.
Then he was gone and it was over. We hung out in the main lobby for about twenty minutes, and I got a picture next to the giant portrait of Bill Clinton (my choice of portraits came down to him and JFK, but the Clinton one had better lighting) and fought off the urge to start gnawing on my cardigan in hunger. Lunch ended up being at Ebbitt’s Grill, a fantastic casual dining bar and grill near the White House, and I must say, if you ever go to D.C. and are looking for a good turkey burger, you won’t get much better than the one there. And the butterscotch blondie? Perfection. Dad’s secretary brought her daughter, Jane, as an early birthday present, and we asked the servers to put a candle in her strawberry shortcake. Sadly, they did not do so, but we told her about it anyway just to let her know we were thinking of her.
After a two hour bus drive back to Maryland (if I ever work in D.C., I will LIVE there, not commute. My goodness, what a bear!), we actually arrived early for our flight. I spent the hour in the air attempting the New York Times crossword with Dad, and we got everything except one four-letter word that stumped everyone.
When I got home I ate dark chocolate almond butter straight from the jar. Barack Obama had shook my hand. Celebration deserved.
PS. Todd told us after the press conference that during the photo with the President, when attempting to put his arm around Barack, he may have accidentally brushed the Commander in Chief’s buttcheek. ‘I should’ve just grabbed it,’ he said.