First of all, I owe you an apology. My last post claimed to have a video, but after spending longer trying to upload it than I did to make it, no video appeared. It's a good one, too!
So we finally come to my favorite part of the week. The trip to the White House. I can't even believe I'm writing these words. I was raised in a political family; my father was in local politics throughout my childhood, and I learned from a very early age how important democracy is, and how hard people before us fought to earn it. I also knew, as a politician's daughter, how hard those elected officials worked. So the chance for my daughters and I to meet our President has been on my mind since I first learned that Amelia was chosen as Ohio's CMN Champion in December.
The girls were awed by the very tight security to get into the White House, and my favorite moment was a priceless Amelia Moment. We're passing through the final security checkpoint, going through the metal detector, and the Secret Service agent is checking Amelia out. Here's a very close reproduction of their conversation:
A:"Don't be alarmed when your wand goes off. I've got metal in me."
SS: "Really? Well, that's fine."
A: "Don't you need to know where? Don't you want some details?"
SS: "It's okay. I trust you."
A: "Well, I just want to make sure you know I don't have anything bad on me. Unless you call a screw in my ankle bad, but I can't really help that now. My braces have metal, too, and I can't take them off or I can't walk. And my mom wants me to look good when I meet the President. Have you met the President? I'm going to. Because I'm a Champion."
SS:"Alright. You have a good time."
A:"You sure you don't need to know which ankle has the screw? My chair is titanium, so I don't know if that beeps."
Have I mentioned how much I love this girl?
We breezed through security, pin and all, and started to walk down the hall into the East Wing of the White House. We were walking directly behind David Archuleta, so I'm afraid my girls were more interested in what HE was doing, but I was soaking it all in. Once we reach the Wing, we are allowed to walk through the rooms at our leisure. They even - gasp - let our kids sit on the furniture and take pictures. The very enormity of it all was getting to me, and I'm afraid I was giggling a little bit.
We walk into the large yellow dining room (where we'll soon meet President Obama), and there are two large trays of water set out. Here's MY silly conversation with the Secret Service agent.
P: "What are these trays of water out for?"
SS: "In case anyone is thirsty."
P: "Really? We can just take a drink out of a presidential glass and drink White House water?"
SS: "Um, well, yes ma'am."
P: "Hey, Emma! Get a picture! I'm going to drink White House water!"
(I never said I was cool...)
Amelia's ONE big plan for our entire trip was to see the First Dog. For those who don't know her well, Amelia is the dog fan of all dog fans. She can see a dog from a distance and tell you the breed, characteristics, etc. She's been telling everyone that she planned on seeing Bo, the dog, on her trip, and I wasn't sure it was going to happen. When we were in the Blue Room, Amelia asked the Secret Service agent if he'd ever met the dog, and the two of them got into a 25 minute conversation about the dog, the person who apparently follows the dog around (Amelia said she wants that job), etc. He said he had seen Bo outside on the South lawn earlier and it was too bad we had missed him. Our miracles weren't done for the trip, it seems, because a few minutes later I was looking out the windows and screamed for Amelia. There he was. BO. He was far away and through multiple layers of security glass, but Amelia got to stand at the window for ten minutes and watch the dog. Thank you, God!
We were eventually told to gather in the dining room, where the kids were placed on risers in anticipation of the President. The wait was a little long for 55 kids, so our amazing CMN bus leader Aubrey started a sing-along. What better sing-along than one that includes an American Idol finalist, right? With no convincing, David Archuleta stood in front of the kids and gave an impromptu performance of "Lean on Me." It was amazing, but let me tell you why. Whenever Amelia has a surgery (and this happens often, since she's up to 51), I have a playlist on my iPod that I listen to. It's a mix of inspirational and soothing songs that carry me through the wait. Each song on there now reminds me of those emotions I feel as I wait for my baby to come out of surgery, and the joy I feel when the doctors once again do their magic for us. "Lean on Me" has been on that playlist for many years. David starts singing and I'm suddenly overwhelmed with the joy of having this opportunity, the esthetic appreciation of such a beautiful instrument in such a gracious young man, and the accompanying emotions related to Amelia's medical struggles. I wish there was a way to let David know what those minutes meant to me.
A few more minutes passed, and the staffers started closing doors and shuffling around, so we knew it was coming. Suddenly in walked President Obama. Regardless of your personal political viewpoints, (and I'll admit that I'm a huge Obama supporter) in walked the President of our country. His sole purpose for these moments was to greet our children and bring joy to them, while also hopefully getting a ray of hope from them as well. This could have been a very business-like in and out, but it was not. He was gracious, personal, and engaging. When it was time for the picture to be taken, the White House photographer (that's the job I want) wanted him to stand behind the kids. He wanted to sit among them, but she nudged him to stand. "No," he said, "I want to be with the kids. Just make it work." And so he got down on their level and sat among them.
He answered questions, and I'm thrilled to say that my angel was the first to be able to speak with him. Her subject? Bo, the dog. Of course. I was cracking up from my tiny spot on the side nestled among all the other parents. As he was finishing up, he shook hands with the kids, and since Amelia was on the end, she was also the last kid to speak with him. Again, it was a classic Amelia Moment. "My momma loves you. She has all your stuff. (I have two Obama action figures, Obama socks, a bobblehead, an Obama Chia pet, etc...) She hasn't grown the Chia yet, and she probably never will." I'm sure he didn't know what she was talking about, but her mother was beaming with pride.
Before he left, he passed by the parents on the side and shook our hands as well. Both of my other girls and I got to shake his hand. I'm still trying to decide if I should ever wash that hand.
We left the White House proud, dazed, and thrilled at our opportunity.