Thursday, December 19, 2013

My trip to the Oval Office and (short) media blitz

Note: This is long and verbose on purpose. I don't keep a journal, so my blog often serves as one.

Yesterday, I had the incredible honor of being invited to the Oval Office to speak with President Obama and the First Lady about my efforts to spread the word about healthcare reform. I'd found out just the night before around 5 p.m. that I would be going and was on a plane 12 hours later.
After arriving in D.C. I had the whole morning to wait before I headed to the White House, so I went to a colleague's office to get some work done (yeah right!) and prepare for my visit. I practiced what I would say to Mr. and Mrs. Obama and collected my thoughts. After looking in the mirror, I decided that doing my hair at 3 a.m. and expecting it to still look good 10 hours later had been a really bad idea and I headed downstairs to the salon that was in the same building.

Feeling refreshed with some great-looking hair, I was now ready to take on whatever came at me. This was great, because I got a call from the White House media folks and they asked if I could do a CNN interview right after my meeting.

I hopped in a cab and, just because I could, I said, "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, please." And was on my way. I made it through White House security and headed down the path to the West Wing where I was greeted by warm and welcoming White House staff. I waited in the West Wing lobby for a while with the other women who had been invited to the meeting and got to know them a bit. It was clear that each one of us had a special connection to the new healthcare law and had been working to help get the word out about new affordable coverage options.

We were briefed and given instructions on how the meeting would proceed and they even gave us a seating chart (I found out I would be sitting right next to the President!). We learned that the eight of us would have a private discussion with the Obamas and then the media would be invited in for a brief statement by them. Finally, it was time to head down the hallway for our meeting. We all lined up outside the door and the White House staffer informed us that at any moment, the President's staff would come and open the door for us.

Suddenly the door swung open and I heard a very familiar voice say, "Hi Moms! Come on in!" It was the President himself and the First Lady. They were standing there with welcoming arms and warm smiles.

They greeted us one by one as we filed into the Oval Office. My son had sent a home made Christmas card for me to give to the President that had a drawing of himself and our dog playing fetch. The card read, "Dear Mr. President, I'm sorry I couldn't come. I wish you could come see me. Love, Ethan and Trooper." Mr. Obama graciously accepted the card and even had the White House photographer snap a photo of the two of us with it.

I moved on to introduce myself to Ms. Obama (even more stunning in real life!) and then met Valerie Jarret (!). I then dutifully proceeded to where I was shown I'd be sitting on the seating chart, nervously forgetting to introduce myself to the handful of other staffers in the room.

We all sat down and had a wonderful discussion about the importance of mothers and women in having one-on-one discussions with their friends and family about healthcare. Ms. Obama shared a personal story with us about how when one of her daughters was a baby, she got very ill and how fortunate they were to have a good relationship with a pediatrician who they could call at midnight. She explained that she understood that a lot of people in the U.S. aren't fortunate enough to have that, which is why the work we are doing is so important. Each and every one of us in the room were there because we feel strongly that everyone should have access to a regular doctor and be able to get the care they need when they get sick.

We went around the circle (oval?) and each of us took a few minutes to share with the Obama's our personal Ethan being born with a pre-existing condition and how comforting it is to know that he cannot be discriminated against any more.
healthcare story. I talked about my experience with

After about a 45 minute conversation, the media came in to take our photos and hear the Obama's statements.

Then we all took a group photo in front of the Resolute desk. I shook the First Lady's hand and thanked her for having us, and then shook the President's hand and mentioned that my son would be so jealous that I got to come and meet him. Mr. Obama suddenly paused with saying his goodbyes and said, "That's right. I owe that young man a thank you card." He pulled out a piece of his personal stationary from the Resolute desk and wrote him a note. It said, "Ethan - Thanks for the great picture, and say hi to Trooper for me! Barack Obama"

(Ethan LOVED it!)

After our meeting, the President made sure that we would be allowed to go to the Christmas party that was in progress over at the White House. Everyone else headed over there while I did my CNN interview outside at the press boxes. After the interview, I got to join the crowded party and wander around the entire second floor of the White House without a chaperone!

While I was enjoying the party, my phone rang and it was the White House media folks asking if I could do another interview. This time, I was taken to the White House Press Briefing room! I did an interview for our local Time Warner affiliate (News 14) from the stage with the seal behind me (so cool!).

After that, I headed back to my colleague's office where I'd stashed my belongings that morning and did a phone interview with Politico. Then I went back to the airport and caught a flight home where an ABC 11 reporter met me for an interview. The next morning, I awoke to a message from WRAL where I did a sit down interview at their studio.

Overall, yesterday was an incredible and surreal day. I will remember it for the rest of my life.

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