Going to Washington D.C. for President Obama’s Final State of the Union Address was an amazing, once in a lifetime experience. With the trip being over a month ago now, it is still surreal to me that I was there and witnessed everything I did. Tuesday, January 5th when I came into work I was not prepared for the news I was about to receive. I received an email that contained a message saying that Mayor Ed Murray suggested me as the individual who will have the honor of traveling with Chief O’Toole to D.C. When I first read the email, it took me a few minutes to comprehend what was going on. Once I finally understood what was going on, I was overwhelmed with excitement. Two days later I got to meet SPD’s Chief O’Toole, who I would be travelling with. When I first met her she was extremely friendly and outgoing, you could tell she was a very likeable person. She made a few funny jokes, and we discussed the trip and travel arrangements.
When Chief O’Toole and I arrived at the airport Monday morning, we were met by one of her staff members who told us news teams were waiting for us. After we had checked our bags we went to the news teams and there were four cameras waiting to interview us. They asked Chief O’Toole a series of questions about how she felt about being selected to sit in the First Lady’s box, her view on gun control, and a few other questions, once she was finished I was asked one question about my feelings on travelling with the Chief and getting to experience this opportunity. I was nervous answering because it was only my second time ever being interviewed in front of a camera and I had never done it in front of four cameras and for a topic that was such a big deal.
Tuesday was the day we all were waiting for. We started off the day by going to the Department of Justice for a meeting with the Attorney General Loretta E. Lunch. When we first went to the Department of Justice I noticed right away how compelling the inside of the building was and the countless memorabilia that was inside the building. One of the first hallways we saw had various nations’ flags on both sides of the hallway; this was one of my favorite areas in the Department of Justice. Luckily I got to sit in on an informal meeting between the Attorney General and the Chief. It was a unique experience to see two people of such power interact and discuss important issues as well as joke with each other and get to know one another.
After a short break in our day myself, Aaron Frausto, Meghan O’Toole, and Chief O’Toole took off to get a tour of the White House. Our tour included a part of the White House not many people can say they’ve seen, The West Wing. The tour of the West Wing was brief and we were not able to take pictures of any of it but, it was very memorable. We were able to see a room called “The Naval Mass” which was Navy themed and had these beautiful pictures of Navy ships; we also got to see a dining room that Vice President Joe Biden eats a lot of his meals at. My favorite part of the West Wing was all of the pictures they had hanging on the wall. They had upwards of 50 different pictures of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama doing various activities such as greeting people, in meetings, speaking to the public, etc. Once the tour of the West Wing came to an end we got the tour of the White House starting from the East Wing. We were able to see the library, the First Lady room, the Kennedy Garden, the East room, along with many others.
Once the tour came to an end it lead to a reception in one of the main hallways of the White House. During the reception we got to network with notable people, meet others who would be in the First Lady’s box, and their plus ones. A few hours into the reception, we were instructed to put our phones away and follow the workers, after about 15 minutes of waiting, Wale, who is a popular rapper from D.C. walked in and I met him which was exciting for me as a fan. But then, Michelle Obama walked into the room. Everyone was silent and anxious to meet her; luckily, myself, Chief O’Toole, and Meghan were the first ones in line! It was a brief encounter but such an honor and once in a lifetime moment. In those few seconds that we introduced ourselves you could tell that she was a nice, kind hearted person with a sense of humor. This was definitely one of the best moments of the entire trip.
Once First Lady Obama left the VIP’s all took a van over to the speech, Meghan and I stayed back at the White House and got to watch the speech from the White House family movie theater. While watching it, we were provided with popcorn, food, and drinks. There were about 20-25 people in the theater with us, and the seats were easily the most comfortable theater seats I have sat in, they even reclined! I thought President Obama gave an impressive speech, I appreciated that not only did he talk about important topics such as prison and education reform and how America should be a place without discrimination, but he also reminded us of all the excellent work he has done with examples such as our economy right now, unemployment rates, etc. Once the speech was over we headed back to the hotel and the Chief, Meghan, Aaron, and me hung out together before everyone went to bed after the long day.
Overall, the trip was one of the best, most eventful trips I have ever been on. Not only did I get to experience the White House, I met important, successful people and traveled with one. I made critical connections and got the experience of dealing with numerous types of medias. This trip has opened many doors for my professional career and gave me invaluable experience I could not have gotten anywhere else, this trip has led to a timeless story I have to share with friends and family, this trip is something I will never forget and will forever cherish.