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Meeting President Obama
By: Michael Wells Jr.
President Obama is a likable guy. I know because I had the opportunity to meet him in December of 2010. President Obama came to my home town, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to speak at a local community college. The President is as at ease and as cool as advertised. If Bill Clinton is known as “Elvis,” then Barack Obama is Denzel Washington meets a rock star.
I have always been interested in politics. In college I interned for a United States Senator, and I took multiple government classes at the University of Virginia. In the shadow of Thomas Jefferson, who founded UVA, it is impossible not to have some interest in politics regardless of how fleeting or how avid.
Almost ten years later, now as a lawyer, I stood in line for a few hours in bitter cold (yes it does get cold in the South) and waited. Luckily I had a ticket for a premium seat. For whatever reason, I have a way of putting myself into good positions when it comes to meeting politicians. I have met Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Jessie Helms and a few other politicians. Of course you have to be aggressive to meet these kinds of people because you have to fight through crowds.
Eventually we were allowed in the building. At one point a Secret Service agent carried a velvet box up the podium. Then he pulled the Presidential Seal out of the velvet box. It appeared quite heavy, gold and ornate, everything you would expect from the symbol of the office of the most powerful person on Earth.
Eventually the President arrived. When you are President it is not possible to be late. The President comes when he can, and he is always “on time.”
It is hard to imagine you are seeing the President. Those of you who have seen the President or a President will know what I mean. But there is something different about President Obama. He glides into rooms, and he is the most at ease person I have ever seen. The President's clothes always remind me of Cary Grant, tie never out of place and no wrinkles.
The President stood less than forty feet from me, and he gave a passionate speech about the need for better education, community colleges and the necessity of a more skilled work force. As an avid Democrat, these are all points on which my views align closely with the President's.
When the President finished he walked down through the crowds along the other side. I fought to get myself in position, but I tried not to knock over any old ladies or little kids.
As President Obama got closer to me I positioned myself right against the rail. I had my Sharpie in hand (he was not carrying one). Generally political figures only sign with a pen they are already carrying. So I knew getting an autograph would be a long shot, but why not try?
Then I saw him signing a ticket for some middle aged people. My chance, I thought. So I said "President Obama, will you sign this?"
President Obama looked me straight in the eyes and said "Oh come on now. Secret Service won't let me sign these things. The only reason I'm signing these peoples’ ticket is hey've been married for twenty-three years today. I'll tell you what, when you've been married twenty-three years, I will sign your ticket." Then he grinned the knowing Barack Obama grin that has endeared him to so many people.
I walked away liking the President even more. Our brief exchange said to me he takes his office seriously, but he does not take himself too seriously. The President realizes he is a normal guy, but he can never be a “normal” guy again because he is President.
Obviously I would have liked an autograph on this particular day, but that is okay. President Obama made a promise, and unlike like a lot of politicians he keeps his promises. The President is a man of character and conviction as is evidenced by his spearheading arguably the passage of the most important governmental program, health care, since the New Deal. I will be married nine years on June 14th, so I only have fourteen years to go before I receive my autograph. Of course, I will not object to an autograph for my wife for our anniversary. Her name is Heather. How about it Mr. President?