Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Day I Met the First Lady

A couple of summers ago, I studied abroad in China with the Critical Language Scholarship program, a program of the U.S. State Department, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  As an alum of the China program, I was invited to an event Mrs. Obama was hosting this past Wednesday.  She was going to be speaking to a group at Howard University to support programs and funding for educational exchanges with China in particular, as Chinese President Hu was in the U.S. for an official state visit.

I really wanted to go to the event, so I invited my mom to go with me and we headed to D.C. on Tuesday.  Tuesday night we checked into our hotel, went out for dinner, and spent the evening shopping in a fun area downtown.  Wednesday morning I met up with the rest of the CLS group at Howard.  There was a large crowd of Howard students waiting to get in to the auditorium, and then there were several groups in addition to mine with the State Department.  We went through metal detectors, had our bags searched, and were wanded down at Security.  Once we got through security, a woman who works for the Office of the First Lady asked if our group wanted to sit on stage behind Mrs. Obama as she spoke.  Of course we agreed and began furiously texting our friends and family to let them know.

When we got on stage, I ended up in a seat at the very far right on the front row!  We sat up there for about an hour before the event started.  As it got closer to start time, more Secret Service began standing around the stage, by the doors, and even behind the curtains on the side of the stage - right next to us!  I felt so legit sitting up there on stage, waiting for Michelle Obama, surrounded by Secret Service who, by the way, looked exactly like they do in the movies:  huge, bald, wearing suits, speaking into the wrists, listening to their ear pieces.

photo from the White House Blog
Finally the event started.  The president of Howard spoke, then the Chinese ambassador's wife spoke, and then Mrs. Obama was introduced!  She came out on stage and all I could think was, wow she is tall!    She spoke supporting the President's 100,000 Strong Initiative and how all students in America should have the opportunity to study abroad.  I loved my experience studying abroad, so I totally agreed with her as she talked about howstudying abroad can have a huge impact on who you are a how you view the world.  (You can read her full speech here.)

After she spoke, there was a panel of students who briefly spoke about their experiences studying in China.  After the panel finished, Mrs. Obama came back up on stage, and walked straight over to me!  We shook hands, I told her it was an honor to meet her, she thanked me for being there and said it had been a great morning, and then she moved on.  What a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!  There was a live stream of the entire event, so here is the clip where I am talking to her!  I have such a goony smile on my face; I'm pretty sure I was thinking, I can't believe this is happening!  After Mrs. Obama left, CAORC took the CLS and Fullbright groups out to lunch at Bus Boys and Poets, where we talked about our different experiences in China.

The entire trip was great, from spending time hanging out with my mom to seeing some old friends to meeting the First Lady (!!!).  I am so thankful that I had this great opportunity, and it is certainly an experience I will never forget!


  1. Your smile looked fine to me. :o) Congrats on getting to meet the 1st Lady.

  2. How exciting to have met Michelle Obama and shaken her hands!! Wow! Certainly a great memory to cherish and how wonderful to have it on video too! :)