“I had that deer-in-the-headlights look—these kinds of things just don’t happen to me.”
That’s how Kathie, a Head Start teacher for special-needs kids, felt when she got the call about being one of four campaign supporters to sit down to a meal with President Obama.
Kathie has been a supporter of Barack Obama since 2008, when she began reaching out to “closet Democrats” in her home state of Nevada:
“A friend of ours had a house party. We watched a video of the speech that Barack Obama had given in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention, and a staffer told us more about Barack Obama as a person and what he wanted to achieve. And from that time on, it was, ‘Yes, we need to support this man. We need to get this man elected.’
Kathie even met then-Senator Obama out on the campaign trail:
“I had the privilege of shaking his hand back when he was campaigning in Nevada in 2008. In the moment you think you’ll say something witty or clever, and what I said was, ‘Thanks for the hope.’
“This time, when he walked in and I shook his hand, it was so neat for me—I told him I was so excited to shake his hand again, as President of the United States.”
As she waited for President Obama to arrive, Kathie thought about the questions she would ask, and got to know the other guests—Valarie, Scott, and Bill.
“We were sitting in the hotel lobby and Valarie said, ‘I think we should figure out who’s going to ask the first question.’ Which was a great idea, except we decided that it would be me! I’m not comfortable in the limelight—but I said, ‘I will do it.’
“I had seen the video of the previous Dinner with Barack, so I knew he would make us feel comfortable. But it was not a huge table! We were really close, and I was right across from him. The question that I started out with was: ‘Thinking about 2012 and the dual tasks of governing and the campaign, do you feel more stress? Or does it feel exhilarating?’ He talked a little bit about the isolation of the presidency—but said he was excited to get out there and talk to people about what he’s accomplished.
“After that the conversation just flowed. He asked about our families and what was happening in our area, and the work that we do. The President ordered a burger and fries, a spinach salad, and iced tea. And then the waiter came to me and I was thinking, ‘How am I going to eat?’ But the President was so warm and considerate—he offered us some of his fries! And I thought, ‘This is the leader of the free world.’
“People have pictures of themselves shaking hands with the President, like industry leaders and Hollywood personalities. I was just thinking that here we are having a meal with him—it’s a sign that we have a connection, that he’s listening to what we think is important. He did say that he really enjoys these meals and that he really looks forward to them. You could tell.”
We’ll be bringing you more from Kathie, Valarie, Bill, and Scott’s meal with the President over the next couple of days—stay tuned.