“Michelle, I’d like you to meet our Michelle.” That was my personal introduction to the First Lady of the United States last Tuesday morning. Pretty awesome! I’m not a bucket-list, resolution-type, but ever since the 2008 campaign, I’ve always admired Mrs. Obama for her outstanding education, her push for our schools to nurture healthier kids and her continual advocacy for young woman to be successful and strong and independent. (Of course, her amazing wardrobe isn’t hurting her cause, but there is so much more to her than her fantastic off-the-rack fashion.) To have the opportunity to meet the First Lady would definitely have been on my bucket list if I had one. Imaginary box checked on imaginary list!
(When I mentioned on Facebook how excited I was for this upcoming opportunity, I got mostly positive responses, but did receive one dripping in sarcasm about how “lucky” I was. I would just like to point out that I would have been equally as interested in meeting Laura Bush when she was First Lady of the United States. I absolutely love that her “platform” was literary achievement and how supportive she was of school libraries, local libraries and reading teachers. Her love of reading segued into a personal mission to improve literacy rates in low income areas and to get more books in the hands of more students. I may not have voted for her husband, but I respect her work and would relish the opportunity to shake her hand and thank her for making literacy a cornerstone of her years in the White House.)
But back to our current First Lady…
Not only was meeting FLOTUS an amazing opportunity, but preparing for her visit was eye-opening and definitely a learning experience for me. (You know how the proverbial “they” say you should learn something new every day? In the couple of weeks leading up to her arrival, I feel like the fire hose of information was turned on full-blast, aimed right at my brain!) Over the course of fortnight, I had the opportunity to work with White House staffers and Secret Service agents and was lucky to have a good crew assigned to my various venues. Coming into this visit, I was worried that my lack of government experience, rural-Idaho nothing-is-every-super-formal background would make it difficult to keep up with what was going on, but the team I worked with was always happy to answer my million questions, walk through my site one more time and review my role on game day in detail. While the whole experience was definitely stressful and heartburn inducing, with a different team assignment, things could have been much more difficult. (As someone who is easily kept awake by stressful situations, there may have been a night or two that I downed a sleeping pill before crawling into bed. I wish I had learned that trick for the night before the first day of school when I was teaching!)
In the end, everyone at the consulate logged a whole lot of extra hours, but the FLOTUS visit went off beautifully. The First Lady was able to see the pandas, visit a local school, eat at a Tibetan meal (that was Thad’s venue!) and visit the consulate for a Meet and Greet event (my site!). (Yes, she did get to hold a panda. I’ve been in China nearly four years and have yet to hold one, so I am a tad bit jealous of that part of her trip. With just eight weeks to go, I’m not sure the imaginary panda holding box on the imaginary bucket list is going to get an imaginary check mark.)
It’s nice to be on the flip side of Mrs. Obama’s visit. It was a fantastic experience, but one that I’m glad has moved from anticipation to memory.
“Michelle, I’d like you to meet our Michelle.” This Idaho-girl will take that introduction any day!