By Jenny Miner and Matt Boivin (WJC Spring '11)
It's obvious that the following blogpost was written by two people of the opposite gender, because one thought the headline should be something like “Beyond the Iron Gates” and the other thought a fitting title would be “Inside the Big White House.”
Anyway, the headlines may suggest different sentiments, but I think Matt Boivin and I had the same sense of awe when we both got to report on an event at the White House today. The following is an account of our experience.
Jenny: It was approximately nine in the morningwhen I made my way toward the White House to attend a conference on Bullying Prevention on behalf of my publication. Though it was a rainy day and my umbrella was not doing much to keep me from getting wet, I was excited. I walked along Pennsylvania Ave. for a few minutes, trying to figure out where I was to enter, before finally asking a Secret Service agent. If you've never seen them before, they look quite intimidating and don't exactly look approachable.
I failed to mention that I was a part of the press, so the agent directed me to a security post directly opposite of where I needed to go. Luckily, I ran in to Matt, who figured out my error.
Matt: I think “rainy” is too soft a term to describe the deluge Jenny and I battled through as we sought the correct entrance for the press into the fortress . . . I mean the White House. Entering the White House is kind of like going through airport security, except it's the Secret Service patting you down, not the Transportation Security Authority. A surreal moment for me was when, after putting the red press badge given to me by the security guard around my neck, we stepped outside of the security enclosure and began walking, with a troop of reporter's up the driveway of the White House. But we weren't going through the front door, at least not yet.
Jenny: Our first destination was the James S. Brady press briefing room, but today it operated as a holding room for those of us waiting to hear President Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama's remarks. Matt and I sat patiently in the room, which was brimming with film equipment. After a while, we developed a little bit of anxiousness, because of the newness of the situation, and wanted to make sure we were in the right place. Matt leaned over and asked a journalist, who looked very official with his iPad in-hand, if he was here for the conference, as well. He affirmed that he was. Turns out, he was a columnist for the Washington Post. He served as our guide until we made it into the East Room.
Matt: The chairs in the East Room were set up in town hall meeting style. The podium, displaying the presidential seal, was on the same level as the seats. We waited twenty minutes as the room filled with presidential guests. Anticipation mounted. And then I found myself watching the President of the United States and the First Lady walk in. I was just twenty feet from, arguably, the most powerful man on the planet. And then they spoke about bullying in America's schools, and how it takes extra effort to get their nine-year-old daughter Sasha, to tell them how her day at school went. It's an interesting feeling, being awed by pomp and power, and yet hearing two parents talk about the challenges of getting their kids to communicate about issues like bullying.
Jenny: The remarks came and went pretty speedily, but our sense of awe lingered. There were a couple times during the speech that I had to remind myself where I was and what I was doing. No one was there to pinch me, so it really felt like a dream. Before we knew it, Matt and I were back in the rain on Pennsylvania Avenue. For some members of the press, this routine experience would have been forgotten quickly, but for me, and I'm sure Matt could say the same thing, my walk back to the office was not spent agonizing over rain puddles, but replaying the experience of being in the White House.