There are some people who dream all the impossible dreams. Those people put things like “Have Tea with the Queen” and “Co-Star in a Romantic Comedy with Ryan Reynolds” on their bucket lists, and then somehow they make them happen.
I am not one of those people. I am the kind of person who puts “make mozzarella” and “unpack boxes” on her list, and then I don’t even get that done.
So instead of putting something crazy like “Meet The President” on my list, I went with “Tour the White House.” I figured that would be attainable. All you have to do is contact your local senator or representative to set it up and then go to Washington DC. Totally doable. Well guess what? I still haven’t toured the White House.
I did shake hands with the president, though.
So. How does one go from not even making mozzarella to shaking hands with the president? Because of blogging. No: Seriously.
BlogHer and SheKnows hosted a town hall meeting with the president in Charlotte on Wednesday. I’ve worked with BlogHer a few times, and my info — including the fact that Charlotte is our closest “metro area” — is in their database. I initially said no to their invitation, because it didn’t say exactly what the meeting was and Rockford was out of town and the kids had stuff on the schedule all day on Wednesday.
Then I found out the president would be there.
I think I would’ve wanted to go regardless of who was in office, because it’s the President. But missing out on seeing President Barack Obama? I really like the guy, and I was kicking myself big-time for saying no. I told my brother, Perry Mason, about the missed opportunity. Here’s something you need to know about Perry Mason: He is one of those people who dream the big dreams. He decides to do something, and suddenly he’s having tea with the queen.
Perry Mason wouldn’t accept that my saying “no” was the end of the story. “You have to call them,” he said. “Tell them you can rearrange the schedule. At least ask.” So on Monday I emailed, and they said “Yes, join us!” After a few conversations that started with “This is gonna sound crazy,” a few very good friends said Poppy and Pete could spend the day with them. And then with a knot in my stomach and a dress on my person, I headed off to Charlotte.
I got to the venue really early, because I expected the traffic to be terrible and then I was basically the only person on the road. I picked my ticket up and then waited in the rain for about an hour until the doors opened. The knot in my stomach had all but left me, because I serendipitously found a pal right next to me in line and she is very good at telling funny and distracting stories. We filed in and found some seats in the second row on the wing, and we settled in to wait for the commander-in-chief. The seats were small and close together, so it was a very cozy wait.
We were all excited and a little tense. Once it was nearly time, we all raised our cameraphones every time the curtain next to our side of the stage area wavered. In retrospect, that was a little silly. Of course the president wasn’t just going to pop out without being introduced, which we all realized when Lisa Stone of SheKnows came out to introduce the lady who, finally, introduced the president. And then there he was, just as cool and lanky and presidential as he looks on TV.
(This is fan-girly. I know that. I can’t help it. It was an amazing experience.)
The president spoke about the economy and its impact on the average American family. He answered questions from the audience and questions that were submitted via Blogger and SheKnows. I certainly hope that the proposals he’s pushing — equal pay for women, tax breaks for the middle class, expanded access to early-childhood education — come to fruition, but the realist/pessimist in me worries that, this late in his presidency and with the current composition of Congress, the plans are just so much rhetoric.
Regardless, he delivers the rhetoric really well. The president was warm and engaging, and he seemed to be genuinely concerned and interested in what people had to say. After a little more than an hour of discussion, a tall guy in a suit signaled that it was time to go, and the president started to make his way around the room to shake hands with the folks in the front row. He started just a few people to my right, so I figured I wasn’t going to get to shake his hand. I was OK with that, because last Wednesday it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d ever attend a presidential event and this Wednesday I was just a few steps away from the president.
But then he came back around to my side of the room, and he flashed that big smile and I stuck out my hand and he grabbed it and that was that.
And now I’m a person who shook hands with the president.
The whole experience was out-of-my-element scary. It was exhilarating. It was inspiring. It was nothing I would have expected to get to do in a million years, and I’m so grateful to BlogHer/SheKnows for inviting me and to Perry Mason for making me go after the opportunity. This blogging thing has brought me many things over the last nine years, but this one? This is and will remain at the top of the heap.