When the President Walked In, I Was Like, “Whoa”

I woke up on Thursday, January 22 with a hungry feeling in the pit of my stomach. “Today may be the biggest single day of your life.” I said to myself. It wasn’t a normal Green Day jam packed with three straight weighted classes chased down by a Newspaper class that is filled to the brim with high-maintenance wonderful and amazing writers. No, today I was going to do something that every journalist dreams of from the moment they get their first reporter’s notebook: Cover the President of the United States.

This opportunity came about in a somewhat random way, It’s not like I know someone in the White House or anything like that. I was just up late one night on social media and saw that the President was coming to KU. I decided on the spot that I was not going to be at school Thursday, but instead on the KU Campus in Lawrence watching the President promote his agenda. I floated the idea past my Mom a day or two later and she said “We’ll see.” That, as you all probably know, is the universal Mom response to everything that can’t be answered within one minute. So I decided to take some initiative, I looked online for if/how I could receive press credentials for the event, it turned out to be beyond easy. It took me about the same length of time to fill out the Press RSVP Form as it does to walk from Mrs. Knowles room to the computer lab. I pressed submit on the form and then waited. And waited. And waited. I kept checking my e-mail the rest of the night waiting for something, anything to show up from KU or the White House, but no such luck. I told my parents later about requesting credentials and they seemed to be supportive, so then we just had to wait.

I checked my e-mail a lot in the 36-48 hour stretch between applying and being credentialed, so I should probably start this paragraph off by apologizing to some of my teachers who suffered through my total lack of concentration for stretches in their classes, it wasn’t you, it was me (Thanks Obama). By the end of the school day Wednesday my patience, or lack thereof, was rewarded; I got an e-mail from WHO-Media Affairs confirming my coverage of the President’s  remarks. I was out in my car, preparing to leave for home when I got it. I threw open my car door and ran into the school, I’m pretty sure I interrupted a meeting Mrs. Loney was having with a student but I honestly didn’t care. We shared a huge high-five and I let out one of those animal yells defensive lineman do in the pregame huddle that have no real reason besides raw excitement and adrenaline. It was that big.

The next few hours were a whirlwind of catch up for the school I would be missing and preparation for the next day. Pretty soon it was 6:30 am and I had to get going. I went downstairs for my all-star breakfast of pancakes and bacon and less than 45 minutes later, I was out the door. I decided I should get there about 8ish (media was to enter around 8:30) so I could find parking and be towards the beginning of the line. I did all that relatively hold up free and entered the venue about 9 o’clock. But first, security. Before even entering the building I was subject to five different security officials and that was before the official “Security Check” even occurred. I passed through the checkpoint easily and there I was, inside the venue.

The venue itself was not particularly entertaining. There was wi-fi access provided and charging stations provided, but there’s only so much wi-fi can do for a person when everyone else is in school so I took pictures and tweeted (@blhsnews) for the most part. The KU band performed the same loop of songs so eventually the music even got old. However, there were two other high school papers there, Free State and Lawrence, and so I talked to the fellow students there from those high schools. The pre-speech vibe was very chill leading up to the remarks, I could have done homework, that is until the White House Traveling Press Corps arrived; things stiffened up then. People like Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper, and Brian Williams all used to be Press Corps members before getting their current gigs, obviously these guys are the best of the best. More pictures, more tweets, more everything once they arrived; it was like these men and women suddenly injected pure ink into the rest of the press.

All of a sudden there was an announcement: “Please Silence Your Phones, The Program Will Commence Momentarily.” The crowd started to buzz, all awaiting the KU band’s rendition of “Hail to the Chief”. Then it began, everyone’s phones lifted, attempting to to take video. People were on their feet everywhere. But it was not to be. At least three times we all thought he was about to come on, but didn’t.

When the President walked in, I was like, “Whoa.” I honestly hadn’t expected to be so awestruck. All of the reporters started to elbow each other (including me) trying to get Grade A pictures. We rushed to the risers and started craning over each other. The country of Yemen fell while Obama was speaking but the entire hall of journalists were still focused on the President.

“Hail to the Chief” was roaring, as was the crowd, I can honestly say I was in shock. But I kept taking pictures and videos anyway. Obama briefly talked about Kansas, Kansas basketball, and his family’s history in Kansas. The people ate that up. He then moved on to his agenda as unveiled in his State of the Union address. He used some of the exact same phrases from it. It was a very charismatic speech though despite all of that.

The speech was great, but the experience was even better and I had a blast doing one of those things that never really gets old, journalism. Thanks to Mrs. Loney and everyone else who supported me during this amazing experience. And, as always, Thanks Obama.