The story of how I ended up at one of the last White House Holiday parties under the Barack Obama administration actually starts about 12 years ago with a lunch with one of my long time listeners. I was hosting a talk show on WAOK at the time and “Miss Ann” who would call the show everyday asked me if I would meet her for lunch in Buckhead. She said’ “I know this might sound strange to you but I really like listening to you, you remind me of my granddaughter.” The invitation itself was a little strange but I accepted and met her at a restaurant around noon. We chatted and she shared with me that she had come into some good fortune by way of the Georgia Lottery and she wanted to present me with a gift for the many days I had blessed her with my show. She handed me a Macy’s bag with a rabbit fur purse inside. I reluctantly accepted because she was not taking “No” for an answer. She told me, “I saw this and I bought it for you to take with you to the White House when you meet the President of the United States.”
I’m sure many of you reading this don’t believe that story and to this day I can’t even tell you where Miss Ann is but it is the truth.
Fast forward to 2006 when I had the pleasure to work with and teach an intern from North Carolina A and T by the name of Addie Whisenant. Addie came to me highly recommended by DeWayne Wickham former columnist for USA Today and at the time Addie’s professor at A and T. She did not disappoint. Addie spent the summer with us at V-103 and WAOK and learned how to be a reporter and news anchor. She graduated in 2007 and immediately went to Washington to work at National Public Radio, The House of Representatives, The Department of Housing and Urban Development and finally at the White House as President Barack Obama’s Director of African American Media. We have stayed in touch throughout her career. She has always thanked me for being a part of her life. I am needless to say so very proud of her and I know she will continue to do great things. Ryan Cameron and I visited the White House last year to do an interview with the President on the Affordable Care Act and of course we both asked her to “get us on the list” for one of the holiday parties. It didn’t work out last year and I really didn’t expect it to work out this year. As a matter of fact both Ryan and I contacted another White House connect to get us in this year but it just didn’t happen. On Monday, November 28 as I was leaving for work I received a text from Addie. I was in! We had the invite to the White House AND we would get a photo with the POTUS and FLOTUS! I held my breath and didn’t make any travel arrangements until I saw the email from the White House.
Two weeks after the invitation I was flying to DC. (I don’t think I need to go into all of the shopping that was done) We stopped at the White House gift shop to do some souvenir shopping and quickly found out that much of the Obama souvenirs were already sold out. I did run into some interesting people also shopping that day. That’s me with former NBC Today show host Katie Couric.
Then the big night. Ryan Cameron and I lined up with 798 other people on a somewhat chilly night and waited about an hour to go thru three levels of security to get in the White House. I think the butterflies in my stomach and the adrenaline kept me from feeling the cold. Once inside we were able to see several celebrities and various rooms in the White House East Wing including the East Visitor Entrance and Landing where there were giant replicas of Bo and Sunny, the East Colonnade and East Garden Room which paid tribute to veterans and service members. In the White House library there was a special message from First Lady Michelle Obama encouraging young people to strive for a higher education. In the Vermeil Room there were portraits of First Ladies of the United States including Georgia’s own Rosalyn Carter. The decorations in the East Room and Green Room were breathtaking. I nicknamed the 17 foot tall Christmas tree in the Blue Room the “We the People” tree. It stretched from floor to ceiling and was trimmed with a ribbon garland featuring the words of the Preamble to the United States Constitution. Then there was the Red Room and the State Dining Room where we saw the White House Gingerbread House and the dessert table. Can I say that the coconut cake was like eating a cloud with coconut icing. We spent a lot of time in the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall before lining up in the Diplomatic Reception Room for a photo with President Obama and Mrs Obama. Unfortunately due to White House rules I cannot share that most coveted photo here but check out the rest of my personal photos from a night I will not soon forget.
Whether you agreed or disagreed with President Obama’s policies one thing is for sure, for me visiting the White House will never be the same. Thanks Addie!