Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Opinion

A stroll through the people's house

To paraphrase John F. Kennedy's observation when he went to Paris with Jackie, I was merely the man who accompanied the Bombshell of the Balkans to the White House.

The invitation from the Obamas to attend a Christmas reception had been sent to her office at the Tampa Downtown Partnership. We weren't sure how we landed on the guest list. We figured we landed on the receiving line because the Sunflower of Sparta had been helpful to the Democratic National Committee locating office space in Tampa during the Republican National Convention. So there we were, rubbing shoulders with more than 1,000 folks mingling about the official portraits of the presidents and first ladies throughout the East Wing of the White House on Friday afternoon.

For several weeks we wondered what we might say in the event we met the first family. The Tulip of Troy had pondered something profound about what an honor and privilege it was for her to attend the reception. On the other hand, I planned to thank the leader of the free world for the opportunity to drive my three Glenn Beck-loving/tea party-following/birther-believing right-wing, crazy brothers absolutely foaming-at-the-mouth ballistic simply by being in the White House.

As it turned out, there was no receiving line. But I've emailed my brothers pictures. They always hate it when I put "Happy Days Are Here Again" in the subject line. What fun.

Prior to the reception we were also invited to join about 200 other people for a briefing at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. If you're going to go to the White House, you might as well take advantage of the full Monty of opportunities to pretend you're a big shot for a day.

The briefing consisted of six administration officials discussing the environment, race, science and technology, the economy and gay and lesbian issues.

I wish I could relate what everybody said, but it was all off the record although not a single utterance would put national security at risk.

This much I can reveal. During the briefing the speakers all noted that when confronted by a problem, you can rest assured the Obama administration robustly has responded by immediately calling a meeting to discuss it. Sometimes these meetings result in advisory councils being formed, or perhaps a commission.

These commissions — depending on the gravity of it all — can trigger task forces and/or study groups. Or perhaps even a conference. Ultimately, if done right, coordination may happen, resulting in memorandums. It is vitally important that networking and partnering in the pursuit of forging new paradigms take precedence.

Of course everybody forgot what anybody had to say, especially after first lady Michelle Obama showed up to spend 15 minutes or so with the group. She was funny, politically savvy and (I hope I'm not breaking a rule here) admitted her husband eats four hard-boiled eggs every morning, just in case you were wondering.

Then it was off to the soiree.

No matter how partisan or cynical one may be, it is impossible to stroll through the White House and not be moved by the history of it all. We roamed through the Library, the China Room (referred to in The American President as the Dish Room), the grand East Room, the Cross Hall, the Green Room, the Blue Room where the 18-foot White House Christmas tree shimmered, the Red Room and finally the State Dining Room, which is dominated by P.A. Healey's imposing portrait of Abraham Lincoln.

The food was marvelous. So was the open bar. It's a good thing we got there just ahead of the fiscal cliff or else the bill of fare might have been pigs in the blanket and Schlitz.

We were unabashed tourists having our picture taken in front of Mamie Eisenhower's portrait, lingering in front of the iconic JFK painting and imagining Richard Nixon wandering the same halls during the Watergate scandal communing with his predecessors.

Finally Barack and Michelle Obama appeared to thank everyone for coming as hundreds of cellphones were thrust into the air to capture the moment.

It had been a very good day.

I knew it would be. Walking to the reception a stranger had stopped the rather elegantly turned-out Azalea of the Aegean on the street and told her she was the most beautiful woman in Washington.

She was. And I was the merely the man who accompanied Angela to the White House.

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