Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Kids Rock The Vote at the White House Christmas Party

In November 2009, we got an invitation to go to President and Mrs. Obama's first White House Christmas Party. We were really excited to meet the Obama's and see the White House decked out for Christmas. On the night of December 4th, we arrived at the White House and got in line to go through security with the other party guests. It didn't take very long to get through security and inside the East Wing of the White House.
When we got inside the White House, there were lights and decorations everywhere. We heard music playing and there were lots of people walking around looking at the decorations. We went upstairs and I asked a man on the security detail if he knew when the Obama's would be coming inside from the lighting of the White House Christmas tree on the White House lawn. He showed us where the Obama's would come in to greet their guests and told us where to stand in the middle of the room so that we would be at the front of the group of guests once everyone gathered to meet the President and First Lady.
Soon, guests began trickling into the room where we waited. After 20 minutes, the rest of the 200 or so guests came in and stood beside and behind us. A few minutes after that, the Obama's came down the staircase from their private residence and spoke to the group.
When they finished speaking at the podium, we all waited patiently to have an opportunity to talk to the Obama's. There wasn't an official photographer taking pictures, and the Obama's had decided that they wouldn't pose for pictures with the guests since it would have taken all night for them to pose with everyone. However, when President Obama came to meet us, he said to the crowd, "I know I said that we weren't going to pose for pictures. But I'm making an exception for these two boys-- and that's all."
The President posed with us while Mom took a photograph. He asked us how we were doing, if we were making good grades in school and told us to keep up the good work with our volunteer activities.
Then, Mrs. Obama posed for a picture, asked us if we were ready for Christmas and told us to be sure and help our mom out around the house. Then, she thanked us for coming to the party. We felt so incredibly special. Several of the adults told us that they were really jealous of the time the Obama's spent with us since most of them only had time to shake the President and First Lady's hands.

After we met the Obama's, we went into the East Room, a ballroom where the dinner was served. The food was AMAZING! There were several tables, some with different types of meat, some with fruits and vegetables and casseroles, some with desserts, and others that had lots of different drinks--almost anything you could think of that was delicious was on those tables. We met people from all over the United States. There were people who had supported the President when he was running for office, prominent political figures, war veterans, friends of the Obama's, and a few other community volunteers like us--all talking and eating together while we studied the architecture and art in the most famous house in the United States.
While we ate, we listened to a member of the President's Own Marine Corp Band play Christmas songs on the famous White House Gold Piano. Not only is it the most visually awesome piano I've ever seen, but it has an unusual tone, as well. The piano was the 100,000th Steinway and Sons instrument ever produced and was given to the White House in 1903. It has lots of patriotic symbolism in the decorations, but the most obvious are the Great Seals of the 13 original colonies that go all around the sides of the piano.
As the party began to wind down, we decided to go back downstairs and go through some of the rooms we missed on our way inside. We've been inside the White House several times before, but we were either on tours where cameras weren't allowed, or where the room wasn't included on the tour, or we were too young to remember being there. So it was great to be able to spend time inside rooms like The China Room (where all of the White House China that the presidents have used since President Washington is on display).
We also got to visit The President's Library, which isn't included on tours but holds some interesting books and artifacts including a famous lighthouse clock. It's also interesting that President John Adams (the second President of the US) used what is now the library as a broom closet and laundry room!
As we walked down the East Wing corridor to leave the White House, we got to see the Kennedy Garden lit up with Chrismas lights, and some favorite Obama Family photographs. The one of the President and First Lady watching a 3D movie with friends in the White House Movie Theater was our favorite.
It was an honor to be invited to the White House by President and Mrs. Obama and it was a night that we will never forget. Not only were the President and First Lady very nice, but they acted kind of like normal parents. That may be because they ARE parents? Anyway, the White House looks different decked out for the holidays than it does at other times of the year, and having a chance to use the etiquette lessons we learned in cotillion was pretty cool, too (even if cotillion wasn't our favorite part of elementary school). We felt very lucky to be able to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience and to be able to share it with our Kids Rock The Vote