Yesterday, my son was part of a gaggle of reporters—seven children between the ages of six and 12—who had the amazing opportunity to interview Michelle Obama in the White House. The special event was just one part of the 136th annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn. Outside, it was all bright, colorful chaos—but inside, the kid reporters waiting for the First Lady were laser-focused, going over the questions they'd prepared in advance … and taking in the centuries of history displayed on the walls around them.
In theory, my 10-year-old son, Zack, should be writing this piece. And—don't judge--he will write part of this piece. But part of the story is that we almost didn't even get there...
"No WAY am I doing that!!" cried my son when I first told him the incredible news that we were going to Washington, D.C. to interview the First Lady. I was completely taken aback. My son is a total people person, very outgoing, highly verbal, irrepressible, even. He has also always taken an interest in what I do for a living, as a journalist, author and editor, sometimes going so far as to say that he wants to be a writer when he grows up.
"I do NOT talk to powerful people!" he exhorted, when I asked him why he didn't want to do it. And then he burst into tears, saying, "I would rather go to school every day during the entire summer than do that, Mom!"
Wow. And, oh boy.
We spent some time talking about it. Then we spent some time not talking about it. And in the end, mom (that would be me) prevailed, gently stating, "There are times when parents need to make their children do things, and this is one of them. It is too special of an opportunity. We can prepare together, and talk through everything that will happen, and you will see: The First Lady is going to be so friendly and nice, and you will be glad you did it."
And, of course, that is exactly what happened. With a little stress and anxiety thrown in, in stops and starts, of course. But the event was just amazing.
Zack at the White House.
No need to take my word for it, because here are Zack's:
As soon as I walked into the White House, I was amazed at the place. We saw a couple different rooms, all filled with historical objects. One of them was the First Ladies' Parlor, filled with paintings of many of the First Ladies through history. In the room where we were waiting for the First Lady, there was even a sword that had been presented to George Washington! But when I saw Michelle come into the room, I was even more amazed. She's a very nice lady and she made me feel right at home. She just acted so nice. I felt almost as comfortable with her as I would with my best friend.
When she walked into the room, she told us all to go ahead sit down on the floor. "Let's get comfortable," she said. I had to wait a while before I could ask my question, because all the other kids were asking questions rapid-fire. My favorite question was, "Do you think you will run for President after President Obama's term?" She said, "I'd certainly like to see a woman president, but no, that's not for me. I think I will continue by being of service, continuing the work that Barack and I have started to help all children."
First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a Kid Reporter gaggle in the White House Library during the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House, April 21, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson.)
Next she talked a lot about "Let's Move," her project to get the next generation healthier and more fit. One tip that stood out was to eat a mostly healthy diet, but to splurge on a treat every now and then. Her favorite splurge? French fries. I agree with her, in that French fries are most probably the best fast food.
We were at the White House for the Easter Egg Roll, and I could hear the sounds of the crowds outside the library, which led to my question: "How many people are coming to the Easter celebrations this year?" She said, "In total, about 30,000. They come in shifts all day."
Then we all stood up and took pictures with the First Lady, and I got to stand right next to her. I felt totally comfortable. I remembered why I had been scared, but just barely.
Then we left the White House and walked through the grounds for the Egg Roll. When we exited the grounds, I got two packages of Peeps. Free Peeps! Or, as I called them: Freeps!! Since it had been a year since I had Peeps, I thought it was a good splurge for the day. They were delicious!
Back to you, mom!
The kids, they have a way with words, don't they? And a way with being honest and open: Whether it's "No WAY I am doing that!" Or "French Fries are probably the best fast food." And First Lady Michelle Obama has a magical way with being open as well. Even though it wasn't my interview yesterday, as a spectator I could see how clear and heartfelt her dedication to helping understand how America's children struggle is, and to then find solutions.
As for Zack, he got a bit more amazed about what had just happened as the day went on. By the time we were on the train home to New York City, he was chattering on about getting to speak with the First Lady at a volume intended to be juuuuuuuust loud enough for our seat mates to overhear. And he started making plans for what he would tell his classmates in a school assembly on Friday, prattling on both as if it were the most normal thing in the world, and the most amazing. Which is exactly what it was.
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