"Today was one of the most amazing days of my life!" That's how I started my journal entry Monday night after a long, overwhelmingly exciting day. That day I attended the Women's Online Summit at the White House, and had the opportunity to meet President Obama!
Okay let's back up a bit — I need to break it down with the delicious details. A little over a week ago, Deanna of Clutch Magazine e-introduced me to the coordinator of the summit, recommending that I take part in this distinguished event. The next thing I know I'm sending over ALL my information (for clearance I'm assuming) and soon after I received my confirmation email.
On a VERY chilly Monday morning, at 9:00 am, I joined a group of new media experts inside a White House suite before being led on our tour. As we exited the room into the elaborate hallway we were paid a little visit by Bo who was coming in from a walk with the grounds keeper. I fumbled with nerves looking for my camera. I spent the entire "Bo moment" digging in my purse and totally missed the opportunity to really see him. I decided then that I would live in this experience instead of spending the whole time trying to capture it. I did take a few photos but I didn't want to be so occupied with pictures that I missed the point of actually being there. (Sorry this is not a great picture, camera issues.)
Being the artist that I am I have to say I was most intrigued by the artwork peppered throughout the lavish rooms. There was so much history in those pieces — pieces I've seen before on television or in books but never imagined I would see in person. I love this Jacob Lawrence painting. (Again, sorry about the pic quality.)
An hour later we were guided to our meeting room in a building across the street where the actual summit would take place. None of us had any idea what to expect. It was like we a part of this top secret mission; but quickly we discovered why we were there. For the next several hours Administration officials took us through their most important policies and how they relate women (did you know about the Council on Women and Girls — I'm all over that). I was captivated by what was being shared and even more impressed that this conversation with new media outlets was initiated by the White House. That spoke volumes to me.
The conversation continues and I'm sitting there listening when I notice a door open just off to the left. I see a face I recognize but because I'm slightly delirious from lack of sleep and just finishing a heavy lunch I'm thinking it's a hallucination. In a matter of milliseconds it was clear I wasn't dreaming. It was him, President Obama! He was literally five feet away from me and all I wanted to do was scream like I was at a Michael Jackson concert. My face was twitching with excitement but I kept my cool.
He spoke to us for several minutes before going around the room to shake our hands. I was an excited mess. This was a moment I HAD to capture. So again, I'm fumbling with my phone, and then I decide I need my real camera — and I can't find it. He's so close. I didn't want to be fumbling when he got to me so I gave up on the picture. I composed myself and got into my stance ready for my very own Presidential handshake.
"Hi Mr. President, I'm Andrea Pippins from Fly," I said with the firmest handshake I could give, looking straight into his eyes.
"Nice to meet you and you are fly," he smiled. (Here's a photo of that moment snapped on a smartphone by a fellow attendee.)
I giggled like a little school girl and melted back into my seat. I was so elated that I didn't even see him leave the room. Not only did I get a handshake from the President but I got Presidential "fly" recognition!
What an amazing surprise. We didn't expect it at all. We were all so excited to see Bo and thought he would be our only Obama family sighting. The fact that President Obama took the time out of his day to say hello and acknowledge what we do was truly an honor.
The whole day was fantastic. No that's not the word I want to use. The whole day was inspiring. Aside from the amazing POTUS moment, it was inspiring to be around all that history and to hear what this Administration is doing (and trying to do) to make our country stronger. The experience showed me how much I don't know about the daily efforts and decisions our government is making, and how not knowing affects my role as a U.S. citizen. Most importantly, being there reminded me what it means to be an American; strength in numbers, having the ability to choose, and exercising those choices through voice.
I started Fly to share my own personal voice and it has grown to share the many stories and voices of others. That decision I made five years ago to start Fly gave me this very opportunity to visit the White House and sit in a room with 24 other amazing voices — and a President interested in hearing them. I am so proud and forever grateful.