First Lady Michelle Obama has been making a splash on the international stage, but here in Washington, D.C. she's been an active community member who has invited D.C. school children to help plant a garden, visited schools to read to kids, spoken at a high school graduation ceremony, and more. Tuesday, the first lady was the speaker at the Greater D.C. Cares Business & Nonprofit Philanthropy Summit and Awards luncheon so I sent our latest staff addition, intern Steve Thompson, to the event to give us an insider's view on how the wife of the president rolls. Here's his report:
"Getting inside the event was not as easy as it sounds. After all, Mrs. Obama has celebrity status with government protection. I, and the 25 other members of the press who were at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown D.C. for the event, had to arrive at least an hour and 35 minutes before the first lady was set to take the stage. After a check of my media credentials (a card with my goofy smile and the word 'intern' in bold red letters) and a search of my bag (which I mainly use for carrying copious amounts of Orbit gum), I had the pleasure of standing spread eagle in front of a Secret Service agent so he could give me a full body scan with a hand-held metal detector. I felt like an unwanted relative at the family reunion. We were then led down a smelly back stairwell into a ballroom full of neatly set tables. I skipped breakfast and it was all I could to do to not snag a roll from one of the bread baskets. A few rows of chairs were reserved for us at the back of the room, caged in by a velvet rope. It was definitely not preferred seating.
"Many members of the press are old time pals so they could pass the time by chatting while we sat there to wait, and wait. I, however, passed the time by sending text messages to my old time pal Alex in between failed attempts to rise my BrickBreaker score. Unlike most celebrities, the first lady has security that even controls when you go to the bathroom. If I needed to use the facilities, or even leave my seat, I had to be escorted by a White House staffer named Ann, who was about 105 pounds of anal retentive. The first lady wasn't the only speaker but those who preceeded her got nowhere near the attention Mrs. O commands. When the President and CEO of Greater DC Cares introduced her, all eyes were on the stage, and the first lady strode onto it to a standing ovation. Sporting a hot pink shirt and a black and white cardigan, she smiled but seemed embarrassed that everyone was standing for her and quickly told everyone to please sit down. A proponent of service to others, she spoke to the audience about the need for volunteerism — a theme she is expected to call upon again next week when she addresses a national convention on volunteering in San Francisco. At the end of her speech, Mrs. Obama took time to shake hands with attendees. Then, in a flash (literally, there were flashing lights around her), she was ushered away."
Photo by Richard Termine