Last Friday, Richard found out he would be meeting President Obama backstage at the campaign’s first rally in Columbus, Ohio the next day.
Richard, an Air Force veteran who now teaches eighth grade American history, raced from Pennsylvania to Ohio with his wife Darlene:
Richard: I got a call at 4:00 p.m. and had to be on a flight at 9:00 p.m.! We got to sit in a section right up close when we got to the rally—and we listened to a phenomenal speech from the President. Darlene was very excited—we share exactly the same views as the President on military families and expanding the Pell Grant program.
Paulette and her husband Kelly, who own a neighborhood convenience store in small-town North Carolina, also got the call letting them know they won Backstage with Barack. Paulette says they “were like a couple of jumping beans” on the rally morning.
After the speech, the two couples headed backstage, where they waited for the President and First Lady.
Paulette: They opened up the door and we all four said: “There he is! There he is!” And the President said, “How cool is this?” We didn’t know what to do—we were frozen!
He walked over to me and said, “We’re a family of huggers,” and gave me a hug. He asked where we’re from, and he said he and Michelle love Asheville. He said, “Hey! The convention is in North Carolina—maybe we can stop by Asheville on the way home?” and I said “You do that! You better look us up.”
Richard: They made me feel like I was talking to an old friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. When I told him I teach American history, his face lit up. I made sure to thank the First Lady for her support for military families, and she said we’ve got a lot left to do.
I expected them to be more formal. That’s what really stuck out, how down to earth they are. In my lifetime, I always thought I couldn’t do or say things that would make a difference in my government. But opportunities like this let ordinary people see who their leaders are.
Paulette: Michelle told me it means the world to her when people like us support the President as much as she does, and I tried not to cry! Finally, the President said, “I guess we have to go now—Michelle, where are we going?” And she said, “We’re going to Virginia!”
I have this book all about Barack Obama’s life in pictures, and I brought it to the arena to ask him to sign it. Security told me I couldn’t bring it backstage with me, so I had to leave it on my seat … and when I got back, it was gone! Someone nearby told me, “He took it.” And then they brought it back to me with the President’s signature! On my way home, I was telling everyone I met the President—I told my cab driver, I told a woman in the bathroom at the airport—and thankfully I have proof that I met him! I’m going to pass it on for generations.