There are moments in life that you know you will never forget.
As they are happening, you find yourself really aware that you are living something that will (most likely) never happen again.
The once in a lifetime opportunities.
This is the story of that time I met The President of the United States.
The day itself started off like any other, in that I rose before the sun and got ready for work. I will admit to spending a bit more time than usual on my hair, as I hoped that with enough mousse and curling iron action I would be able to distract The President from my multiplying by the second gray roots. There was, however, no hope of hiding my Bert from Sesame Street eyebrows, so I took that as a reminder from the universe that I should stop ignoring eyebrow care from here on out.
After spending the morning at my office, where I took a brief break from working to be interviewed for the news…yep, it was every bit as crazy as you would imagine, I headed off to the Obama Town Hall.
We all gathered in the library where the event was being held for about an hour and a half before President Obama arrived. It was the perfect amount of time to enjoy all of the music playing that instantly took me back to the campaign days of 2008. Think Signed, Sealed, Delivered and City of Blinding Lights, and you get the idea. I visited with other bloggers around me (Hi Jen, Towanda and Nichole!) and tried really hard not to cry.
See, I knew as I sat there in that space that there was no one, NO ONE, who would have loved this experience for me more than my mom. It is because of my mother that I am passionate about politics, as I accompanied her to vote for the first time when I was just 2 months old and never missed an election day with her until I went to college (and even then we would stay up late talking on the phone as we watched the election results come in). My mother absolutely loved political discussions, and she loved Barack Obama. I could pratically hear her as I sat there waiting telling me that when it was all over I better remember every minute because she would want to know every single detail, and she would absolutely mean EVERY.SINGLE.DETAIL.
And then I kind of had a peaceful calm come over me as the straining notes of another round of City of Blinding Lights began where I could almost just feel her there, reminding me that I had this. That imaginary tap on the shoulder to say “enjoy every second and use this opportunity to make your daughters proud of you”.
Soon after, there was an announcement that we needed to silence our cell phones and prepare for the program to begin.
And just like that, The President of the United States walked in, inches away from me.
Well, hello, there Mr. President!
The President spoke to all of us, completely candidly, without notes or a teleprompter for a little over an hour. It was quite obvious sitting there listening to him that he, like those of us in the room, feels passionately about women being paid the same as men for equal work. He has a personal stake in this cause, as he himself has daughters. I was extremely impressed both with his knowledge base and his ability to connect with our audience.
And the issues being discussed, especially those related to equal pay for equal work? Those issues aren’t political. They have nothing to do with being a Republican or a Democrat. They are about being just and being fair.
At the end of the event, there was time for one more question, and y’all, that question went to me.
I got a chance to ask The President of the United States the question I had prepared:
As the mother of two daughters, how do you suggest I best empower them if they will be paid less than a male counterpart with the same skill set and the same background?
This is what The President said to me:
“You’ve got to remind your daughters that things are not perfectly fair, but people who work hard can make it fair…The way things get better is by that next generation taking ownership and being inspired…We want them to feel like the world is wide open to you, you can remake this thing, ultimately at some point you guys are going to be in charge. And so we want to not send a message to them that somehow they’re limited. We want to tell them what I tell Melia and Sasha, there’s nothing you can’t do.”
And with that, the event was over. The President headed over to me first (probably because he had just finished answering my question) and shook my hand. I thanked him for coming and for the honor of getting a chance to speak with him. He told me to keep working hard as a nurse and that The White House loves nurses.
I stayed after it was over for a little while doing a few interviews, chatting with bloggers and thanking Lisa Stone for being an amazing moderator.
My only regret of the day (besides the lack of eyebrow waxing) was not somehow managing to tell The President that for the first 5 years of her life Abby called him “Barack Omama”, as I think he would have enjoyed that little anecdote.
It is honestly hard still as I sit here writing this to put into words what this experience meant to me, as a mom, as a woman and as an American.
I will say simply that I am forever grateful and beyond humbled to have been given this truly once in a lifetime opportunity.
Clt Blogger Ashley Taylor discusses Equal Pay for Women w/ ObamaAshley, you are amazing! What a great story. Proud to be represented by a woman like you!
Posted by Vicki Vogt-Smith on Wednesday, April 15, 2015