So as I mentioned in my earlier post, I spent the afternoon at the White House today, for the occasion of the Citizen’s Medal Event, an event which basically honors ‘ordinary’ Americans who have done extraordinary things. I was both honored and humbled to have been selected to attend by my awesome supervisor at my internship at the DNC (working in Obama for America-the DC arm of the President’s re-election campaign).
As I’ve mentioned before, while I have been to the outside of the White House–during my first visit to DC in March of this year–today was my first time actually visiting the inside. Folks, I am still, hours later, pinching myself! The whole afternoon, the whole experience was, in a word–unbelievable.
From the moment I arrived at the Southeast gate entrance earlier this afternoon, I could not believe my luck. Though I have indeed been working hard on the behalf of the President (though as I’ve said on here before, it doesn’t really feel like work to me, but rather as a great honor and privilege) , I still can’t believe I was chosen for an opportunity like this. I hail from a town of less than 4,000 people. Before I came to DC to visit in March, my only view of what is arguably the closest thing to a palace in this country was on C-Span and in history books. While visiting the White House has long been a dream of mine, I never imagined I’d actually get to-or at least not for an event like this!
The champagne and fine music flowed for nearly an hour as the larger, adjoining room was prepared for the President and the ceremony. I used this time to not only enjoy the reception but to take in the utter, epic awesomeness of my surroundings. Just being in the White House, the building itself, was such a dream come true for me, both as a huge, self-admitted political junkie and as a longtime History buff. Both the excitement of the knowledge that such an historical President and administration is housed within these walls and the remnants of the history left behind there overwhelmed me as I walked around, snapping these photos with my Blackberry (which we were, thankfully, allowed to do!:)).
The JFK Portrait
Milling around before ceremony
I was also able to get some neat views of the outside of the White House, from the reception room window!:
Then, it was time to file into the larger, adjacent room for the ceremony itself! The President would be making some remarks before presenting the medals to the thirteen Americans selected (by ordinary citizens, online) for their extraordinary contributions to society. (You can read more about their amazing acts and contributions here:
There was an audible hush when the President entered the room and we all rose and stood to greet him. I’d known from my prior experiences how much of a presence he is, but realized it even more today, being only three (short) rows across from him.
President Obama gave a moving and inspiring speech preceding the presentation of the medals, one that I thought tied in really well with his speech at the Martin Luther King Jr dedication on Sunday, about the need to fight for and help people even when “we are doing okay”, about, basically “we” over “me”, “out of many we are one”. The entire ceremony and the people who were selected for the medals, their stories (see the White House link) were so fitting for the President’s agenda and what he stands for. Plus, on a more personal note, he just has this really calm, down to earth kind of energy. His critics often accuse him of being arrogant–I’ve never gotten that sense from him and after being up close to him today, I get it even less. I know I am biased for obvious reasons, but I guess I just don’t understand what truly seems to be a personal hatred of this man from and by many of his detractors. He’s just so genuine and whether you agree with his politics and policies or not, I think it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t at least mean well.
But back to the account at hand..
The President with the medal recipients:
I didn’t get to speak to him as he had to leave very quickly after the ceremony, though he did look at and say “hello” to my row. 😉 There was an adorable moment on his way out, though, when he caught sight of this little girl in this bright red hat. He reached right out to her, took her by the cheek, and said “Well hey, sweetie pie”. She buried her face on his shoulder, getting all shy! 🙂 I unfortunately didn’t get that shot (!) but here is the hat that got her the nod-as a big hat enthusiast myself, I can certainly see why!:
Right before he left, the President told us that he “heard the food” that would follow in the other room “was pretty good”. He was right!:
A delicious array of salmon brisk (I think it was?), lamb kabob (or chicken? it was delicious regardless!), thai noodles, these really good vegetable patty things, and absolutely divine dark chocolate!
On my way out, this really nice lady on the security team, noticing my Bo the First Dog Beanie Baby Keychain on my purse, suggested that I get a shot of this iconic picture and another, lesser known one of the adorable furball :p :
Today was seriously one of the best days of my life! I feel so honored just to have set foot in the White House–particularly this President’s White House–much less to have been part of such a special event with the President himself, not to mention having gotten the red carpet treatment from his top notch and very thoughtful staff. Today will definitely go down as a highlight in my DC experience–and for me, personally, over all–though I continue to be both wowed and humbled just to be here, doing what I’m doing in the first place.
Here’s to four more years of this President within these walls, four more years of his inspirational presence and leadership!
Today is definitely a day I’m convinced I’ll one day be telling my children and grandchildren (if that is to be my destiny..) about.
In a word– awesome!
More to come soon!