I met the President of the United States at work.
I’m a teacher. One of the least respected professions in America. (“Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”) And I met President Obama. Without even having to gate crash.
I’ve actually known since Friday that “someone special” was coming to visit. Thursday and Friday the Secret Service scoped out the school. Friday they came into my classroom, which distracted my students, who were studying for a quiz. “Can you come back in a half an hour? They really need to study for their test,” I said.
Meanwhile, Fairy Godmother thought they were from the renovations committee and pointed out the dangerous plate glass in our classrooms! Well, we are teachers, first and foremost concerned about the safety and study habits of our students.
After work, Fairy Godmother and I had to give our full names, dates of birth, places of birth, and SSNs to the principal. (See, Good Man, this is why you need to memorize your SSN.) So we knew Something Big was going to happen.
When I woke up, Diana and Good Man and done some sleuthing. “Have fun Obama girl,” Diana told me. “You’re meeting The President,” Good Man said.
Today the teachers all had to park 8/10 of a mile down the street. A bus shuttled us to the school. The students who saw us were so confused. You could read their faces. Why are our teachers on the bus? Although we were dropped off in the back, we had to walk around the front, where we had to flash our badges twice within ten feet.
The front and back parking lots, as well as the side streets, were crammed with police vehicles. We entered the building to find policemen, Secret Service agents, and bomb-sniffing dogs. I later found out that students had been instructed to leave all personal items downstairs.
Fairy Godmother and I collected the students who’d been chosen to meet the “special guest.” We still weren’t 100% sure what they’d get to do, so we practiced how they could answer some questions, and what sort of questions they might ask President Obama.
Finally, we were called downstairs. We were all wanded. Fairy Godmother and I were given fold-over lapel pins to wear, to prove we belonged in the room.
We waited. And waited. The students watched the men in the hallway “with funny things on their ear” talk “into their hands.” Suddenly, a stampede of press suddenly entered the room, stood behind us, and started snapping photos. “I’m scared,” one of my students said.
“It’s just the press,” I said, “It’s OK.”
“Are they like the paparazzi?”
“No, they’re reporters. It’s their job to follow The President and take photos.”
One of my students wrinkled her nose. “Why doesn’t he get a restraining order?”
A few seconds later, the President entered the room. “Hey! How are you?”
“Good,” the students chimed in the sing-song student-mass voice.
“Good to see you,” President Obama said, as he shook every hand in front of him. “What’s your name… Good to see you.” I watched and winced as my girls gave him dead-fish handshakes. I taught them better than that…
Fairy Godmother and I stood up when he got to us. Everyone laughed for some reason when I did, probably because I jumped up with a goofy grin on my face, but come on! I was not going to sit while shaking the President’s hand!
Obama sat down, asked the students a few questions, and opened up the floor. The students asked him several questions (and no, we did not make up their questions for them).
Meanwhile, I was sitting approximately seven feet from him thinking, Am I really sitting in front of the President of the United States? Really?
And he was just as eloquent without a speech as he is with one. He was also great at putting things in kid-friendly language without being condescending.
And he slouched a little. (Fairy Godmother disagrees. She thinks he was just “leaning.” I say he was slouching.)
After approximately 20 minutes, the President said he had to go. Suddenly the students swarmed him. He shook their hands, patted their shoulders, and smiled and nodded as they thanked him for coming.
After he left, someone else came into the room and said the President had brought a treat. Boxes of M&Ms (red, white, and blue, of course), complete with the Presidential Seal on them. Ha ha!
Presidential M&Ms and Proof I Belonged There
Amazingly, not 30 minutes after we left the room, his press conference was over and he’d left the building. Gone were the dogs, the cars, the media, the people toting around Very Large Guns. It was as if he’d never been there. Poof!
Even more incredibly, not an hour after he’d left, my students had calmed down and were back to Language Arts (mostly) like normal.
In one year I have attended President Obama’s Inauguration, seen him stumping for Creigh Deeds, and met him in person.
I have now promised Good Man that for the entire year of 2010 I will not once say “you dragged me here, I would’ve stayed in Korea.” As Good Man pointed out this weekend (when we were guessing it would just be Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, or Dr. Jill Biden, or Michelle Obama), if it weren’t for him “dragging” me here, none of this would’ve happened.
Fair enough, Good Man, you get the credit.
Wow. I met Obama!