I met The President. When I say met - I was close enough to hear his voice without a microphone. Close enough to see the detail on his tie. Close enough to receive intense scrutiny by a secret service agent. It was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.
I was sent a flyer that he was coming to the Bay Area and you could buy tickets. I'm still not sure why. I am not a registered Democrat, I'm not even an American citizen. Either way - I was immediately intrigued. I looked at The Husband and we agreed that this was something we'd like to do. I applied. Easy. It was so easy in fact that immediately I paid (not a large amount of money) I thought that I had just been scammed. I turned to my trusty pal Google which reliably informed me that The President and The First Lady were indeed coming to California for a three day campaign fundraising spree.
Being the introspective kind I spend several days wondering why I had a low thrumming in my belly. Why was I so excited by this? I realized that in no small part I was having a 'Jenny from the block' moment. I grew up on, what you Americans endearingly call, a housing project. My family expectations were that I would leave high school with enough skills to get a steady job as a secretary or even at a bank. Only until I got married of course. So for little ole' me to be in the same room as arguably the most powerful man in the entire world felt like some kind of achievement. Of course I wasn't going because he personally invited me to recognize my achievements as say a mother, blogger, OT or just general all round fabulous person. I did pay for the experience but let's not nit pick.
Next came the most important question of all. What would I wear? I was heavily comforted by the fact that (my soon to be new pal) Michelle Obama likes to wear dresses from Target. The information we were sent recommended comfortable clothes. I remember thinking this odd. I now know they were planning for the fact that we would wait outside in an unbelievably long line and heels and a LBD would have made me miserable.
The day came and I found myself giddy. As a mom, I first had to juggle children and childcare but I did it all with an accelerated pulse. When The Husband and I were finally in the car, on our way, I was like a teenager in line to see Justin Bieber. The two hour, wrapped around the block line only dampened my enthusiasm a little. We enjoyed a floor show from some really random political activists. Each to their own and all that but there really were some obscure themes.
We finally cleared security and got inside. It was a random seating assignment and we were eight rows from the stage. I wasn't expecting a stage. I was sold a 'cocktail reception with The President.' It's all in the interpretation. There were cocktails for sale and The President was going to be there. My plan of dazzling him with some witty political banter evaporated. Also - no Michelle. It was all too exciting for me to care.
We listened to a few speeches from locals, one from a 49ers player and the Obama 2012 SF co-coordinator. Then Chris Cornell of Soundgarden came out. Now we had The Husbands attention. He sang a simple acoustic set including Black Hole Sun and then for Whitney - I will Always Love you.
It seemed random and unrelated but he was good and I did really feel it upped the 'money's worth' factor.
Then he was there, striding across the stage with that enigmatic smile of his. He spoke for 35 minutes. The first ten were pretty standard rally fare. Then a women came running down one of the aisles ranting about something - she was 'removed' within seconds and it seemed like it broke the ice. The speech that had been so carefully placed on the podium for him seemed forgotten. He started speaking from his heart. He talked about the promises he made on the campaign trail on 2008 and how people were disappointed he hadn't delivered. he talked humbly about the mistakes he had made, the things he had to learn and the realities of politics. The molasses involved in every step of the way. The burden of the financial recession which he didn't create but was expected to fix in five minutes. He reminded his wavering devotees that he had been very clear that change was going to be hard. He talked about what he would do with another four years. I found him to be genuine, humble, charismatic, funny, realistic and entirely captivating. When he came down and shook hands with people at the end I saw him listen intently despite the crush around him. I saw him smile with his whole being. He struck me as someone who's heart was in the right place, who's desire to do the right thing was his true motivation. I was impressed. Not to mention that he is devastatingly handsome.
I love to know how things work. I like to see behind the scenes. The 'real' side to every story. To that end the Secret Service men fascinated me. They were without doubt incredibly intimidating. I was left in no doubt that any one of them could take me down with their pinky finger. They talked into their sleeves - just like in the movies. Their eyes bored holes into you making you instantly fear that perhaps you had an AK47 in your back pocket by mistake. I watched them frisk those who got close enough to hug Obama while they were hugging. I feel confident the huggers didn't even notice it happening. I have never before seen the solid bulk of six foot four muscle wriggle into the gap between two humans with such grace and ease and authority. It was like a very carefully choreographed ballet with wrestlers in suits.
Then it was over and we were bustled out into the still closed San Francisco streets. It was an entirely fantastic experience. One I will never forget. Bucket List worthy. AND they let me bring a camera......