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Palo Alto Students Visit White House, Meet President and First Lady

Original post made by Wes Rapaport, Midtown, on Jan 22, 2013

Our scheduled penultimate day in DC turned out not to be our penultimate day! Today turned out to be our penultimate day… we missed our plane… but thank goodness Southwest came through for us… they thought it was a o k once we told them we got held up at the White House! You won't believe this!



Dakota Baker:
"We woke up at 9 and set out for the 11:30 White House tour. It was the coldest day on the trip, with temperatures in the teens to twenties and wind, which made it feel colder. We drank hot cocoa and chatted with some people while we waited in line for the security checkpoints. We were able to get into the tour by way of the advocacy and tireless efforts of former Mayor Yiaway Yeh's friend from the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. The house is beautiful, of course; impeccably clean and up-kept, and full of the famous presidential portraits. We made it through a few hallways on the first floor of the living area of the house, recognizing several of the locations where the President was standing when he gave national televised addresses, like the red-carpeted hallway where he announced the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

Once we reached the East Room, a gorgeous gold/yellow schemed ballroom, we were joined by Yiaway's friend who encouraged us to stay put instead of proceeding through the the next few rooms because "a very special guest was coming." After talking to the friend for a while and learning about her experience working in politics and the White House, she eventually let on that the First Lady, Michelle Obama, was going to come out and greet the people on the tour. We all started freaking out. As the number of Secret Service people in the room gradually increased, so did my anxiety and excitement. The door to the Green Room was shut as some camera equipment was set up and behind-the-scenes work was done. The East room began to fill with people waiting to get through, clueless about what was about to happen.

Finally the door was opened and staff members directed us to file through the Green Room, to the door to the Blue Room. One-by-one we stepped into the Blue Room, and there they were. Not "she"–they, plural. President Barack Obama was standing next to First Lady, Michelle Obama waiting to shake my hand!!!!! I was completely awestruck, my cheeks felt hot and pink, I was tingling all over. I wanted to have somewhat of a conversation with them, but I found it was extremely difficult to speak intelligently or intelligibly. The President asked me my name, and after I answered he said, "Hello Dakota!". He might have asked me how I was feeling, and I might have said I felt amazing but I don't really remember what came out of my mouth. Then he looked down and something along the lines of, "looks like Bo thinks your jacket is an animal". I guess their dog, who was standing between the two of them, was playing with my coat's faux-fur lined hood. The First Lady gave me a warm handshake and a beautiful smile.

But the day wasn't over quite yet. Yiaway's friend took us on a private tour of the West Wing–not included in the usual White House Tour. We got to see the offices of her department and where all the executive work and decision-making happens. We got frozen yogurt (I know, frozen yogurt when it's below freezing outside) at the White House Mess in these awesome White House paper cups. Next to the Mess, in possibly the least likely location, was the infamous Situation Room! We couldn't go in, or even take pictures of the outside, but seeing it was cool enough!

Our flight time had come and gone, but Southwest was generous enough to reschedule our flight for tomorrow. I'll be missing another day of school, but the extra make up work is more than worth it!!"


Nitya Kasturi:

"I predicted the uncertainty of today correctly. I packed everything up to prepare for our flight later in the afternoon. We woke up pretty late, not even knowing if we were going to the White House. With a last-minute email from Yiaway's friend from the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, we left the house and arrived at the White House at 11:15. Today, it was so cold that I could feel the frostbite coming on after taking off my gloves for one minute. It was 18 degrees, but it felt like it was 8 degrees according to The Weather Channel. As soon as we got into the line to get into the White House, Yiaway and I decided to buy some hot chocolate, and I must say the hot chocolate was DELICIOUS. We finally passed through security and went inside to the East Wing of the White House, where all the tourists look at paintings like the famous Washington portrait, and the old residence area. Each president must have had their own portrait, and every inch of the building was taken care of. We met Yiaway's friend and she gave us a surprise. A special guest was coming into the East Wing at 1PM, so we lounged in the East Wing for about an hour. After later discussion, she told us the surprise: Michelle Obama was coming in to greet the White House visitors. My mind was racing like crazy, and we finally stood in line to meet the First Lady. We tried peeking into the room as the Secret Service agents filed across the East room, and we finally went inside the Blue Room. Inside, one of the Secret Service agents said, "He's also there." I peeked in, and saw President Obama. My heart immediately began to speed up, and when I walked in, my mind literally left my body. They are such a powerful couple, and you won't feel the power and energy they give off until you're right next to them. Bo, their dog, was so adorable. As soon as I walked out, it finally hit me. I WAS SHAKING THE HANDS OF BARACK AND MICHELLE OBAMA!!!!!!! I was jumping up and down as usual. We each took a White House cookie, happy in spite of knowing that we missed our flight.
We tried finding flights in the day, but all the Southwest flights were full for today. Because of Southwest's hospitality, we got the same exact flight a day later. Thanks Southwest!! We had a quick take-out from Shaw's Tavern, and I had pulled chicken for the first time. The shock of meeting the President and the First Lady is still there. I remember waiting in line to shake their hands, but I don't remember shaking their hands clearly. Luckily, the memories were captured on video, and I accomplished my new year's goal for my history class: I met Obama! I should catch up on my homework, as I'll be back home in 24 hours."


Alec Furrier:
"We met President Obama and the First Lady!!! Obama!! Oh and we got a private tour of the West Wing of the White House. Can you say "Oh my god" a million times for me? Definitely the most exciting day of my life, as I have never been around such important people. I can't believe he actually shook my hand. Looking back, I don't even remember what I said because I was so shocked. It was an amazing experience and I can't believe he was nice enough to take time out of his day. Especially since it was the day after the Inauguration.

My second highlight of the day was the White House frozen yogurt. Strawberry froyo is probably the best froyo there is. I am super thankful for the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs' generosity, as they made everything possible for us. I can't believe they got us in and made it happen. It was great. Also Southwest allowed us to switch our flights for no cost so that we could meet President Obama. Overall this was the culmination of our trip. This day required the efforts of everyone around us, and that is the definition of this amazing experience. Everyone came together and helped us out to make it possible, and that fact is unbelievable.

Day 5: ❤"


Kenny Jones:
"Although I have been starting my blog posts from the start of my day, in this one I will start from the middle because, well, WE MET THE PRESIDENT! He was standing in the Blue Room of the White House alongside the First Lady, with their dog, Bo. We came in and shook his and her hands. I SHOOK THEIR HANDS! The experience was beyond amazing. We were waiting in the East Room when our White House insider informed us that we shouldn't go anywhere because a 'special guest' was arriving soon. We then learned that the special guest was going to be the FLOTUS herself, but none of us were quite ready to see her husband too when we opened the door and saw the flashing cameras. The feeling was indescribable. A euphoric rush followed that was so powerful I didn't even notice the below freezing temperature outside. It was a truly momentous occasion -- we were in the right place at the right time -- and I will treasure the memory for the rest of my life. The rest of the day was awesome as well. We received a personal tour of the West Wing -- I almost stumbled into a door labeled 'Situation Room' but then a government official told me it would be a good idea to get away from that door. I took her advice. It was also really cool seeing the original portraits to the famous pictures that were inside my AP US history textbook last year such as George Washington's portrait and the Crossing of the Delaware. This has been one of the crazier days of my life, and I am so thankful that former Mayor Yeh, the Media Center, the DMO and Southwest Airlines (who have been so great!) have made this opportunity available to me and the rest of the YVC. I continuously count my blessings and pinch myself because I am pretty sure that I'm dreaming. And, as Channel 4's newscaster once said: don't act like you're not impressed."

Caroline Clark:
"Today was supposed to be our last day in DC. There was a slight situation that arose...we met the President and First Lady.

We woke up today and started to pack for the trip home. A while later we left the house and were struck by a gush of 23 degree air. To say it was unpleasant is an understatement. We found our way to the White House for a tour, but had to wait for a little longer than planned because the previous tour was running late. After being colder than I have been in my entire life, we went through impressive security and finally entered the White House for a self guided tour. We had only been there for about a half hour before hearing that there was a "special guest" coming at 2:00, and we were faced with the decision to either meet the guest, or risk missing our flight. We chose to take the risk. It was definitely a good decision.
After anxiously waiting for some time and meeting Yiaway's friend who works in the White House, it was revealed that Michelle Obama was the mystery guest. Everyone was ecstatic. We waited in anticipation for the opportunity of a lifetime.
Finally 2:00 came around, and one-by-one guests were ushered into the Blue Room. To our absolute astonishment, Barack was there with Michelle. I had a good 10 seconds of processing time and mind screaming before approaching the President and shaking his hand.
I went by Malia, my middle name, for all of middle school and intro duced myself to the President this way. His response was something like "Oh you're a Malia too? Are you from Hawaii?", to which I replied that my mom was, and that she actually attended the same high school as him. He asked if she and him had been classmates or something, and I answered that I wasn't sure if they had overlapped.
I then went on to shake Michelle Obama's hand, and she said told me it was a pleasure to meet another Malia.
I'm amazed that I managed to speak. The entire time I was completely in shock; "I'M TALKING TO THE PRESIDENT!!!" were the only words I could think of.
After coming down from the shock a little, Yiaway arranged for us to have a private tour of the West Wing. We were introduced to some of the people who worked in the offices there, and saw the (closed door of the) Situation Room.
Today has been completely surreal. I can't believe I met the Obamas, or got a chance to tour the West Wing. It's been beyond any dream of mine. Words can't even explain how overjoyed I am. Heading home tomorrow's going to be a real bummer."


More photos and media content are available on the Media Center's Facebook page. The link is provided below.

In addition to regular blogging, updates from the YVC can be found on the Media Center's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/MidpenMediaCenter and Twitter feed: Web Link

More information about the Media Center: www.midpenmedia.org

Comments (6)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by FUN!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2013 at 12:03 am


Way to go guys! this is one heck of a way to report on the inauguration.

Nice friend of Mayor Yiaway Yeh's at the White House Office!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Carroll Harrington
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 23, 2013 at 4:56 am

Totally awesome!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by news, not favors
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jan 23, 2013 at 10:06 am

"Nice friend of Mayor Yiaway Yeh's at the White House Office!"

Perhaps.

Noted last night televised reports indicating that the President and First Lady surprised a number of tour guests yesterday.

I'd put it as a fortunate timing.

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 23, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Always many factors -- never hurts to have nice friends or good timing. Cool story for all the students. Nice little video. Bo had his eyes on Dakota's coat for a good 10 seconds before going for it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2013 at 9:04 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Katherine
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Wow!! Amazing experience for all of you. And how nice to hear that SouthWest accommodated your change in flights....my baby brother is a SouthWest pilot and he will love this story!!


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