“Awe Inspiring” Perk of Office – Part 1
It all started last week. I received a call from the House of Delegates Republican Caucus staff while working in my District office. "Are you interested in attending a presidential event in the White House next Tuesday?" Diane Croghan (Caucus chief of staff) asked.
How does one answer a question like that without sounding silly?
I couldn't get the “yes” out of my mouth quickly enough. I guess I should have asked what the event was, but that thought never entered my mind.
The first step was clearing the Secret Service hurdles. Social Security number and date of birth are apparently prerequisites to traveling to the White House, especially if you'll be in the same room with the leader of the free world.
I called all my friends to tell them about my trip plans. My only other visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was as a tourist in the early seventies. My memories of that visit had gotten a bit foggy with time, but I recall being in awe of my surroundings, reflecting on the fact that I was walking in the shadows of Lincoln.
Given the trauma of parking in Washington, I opted for the Metro from Shady Grove Road.
Besides, we rural Marylanders are paying so dearly for that system, so getting a little use out of it seems to give a little comfort.
Del. Chris Shank (R., Washington Co.) and I went down together, and we spent the trip down talking about plans for the upcoming legislative session. Chris is a bright guy, and we share a sense of enthusiasm for the future of the Republican Party in Maryland.
The two-block walk seemed like just a few steps, and before I knew it, I was standing outside the Southeast gate on East Executive Drive. We were cueing up with some other State (Virginia and Pennsylvania as well as from Maryland) legislators, all equally excited about our visit.
A group from the Middletown and Frederick Women's Republican Clubs happened to be touring the White House with Mrs. Ellen Bartlett, wife of our congressman, Roscoe Bartlett. It was nice to see and share a moment with these wonderful Fredericktonians.
A few minutes later, former Maryland Delegate Jim Kelly, now a member of the president's Intergovernmental Affairs office, came out to help us enter the White House. Jim got us through the security procedures, and into the ground floor hallway. Even the lower level hallways and rooms are incredibly impressive!
Jim explained that we had been invited to join the president for a reception honoring state legislators for their support of the President's belief that controlling local and state tax rates helps Americans create jobs, opportunity, and personal wealth. An organization called Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) had been meeting in Washington, and many of the attendees at this affair had been part of that group.
We were taken to the main floor, often referred to as the State floor. This is the area most accessible to public on the official White House tour, featuring the East Room, Blue, Red, and Green Rooms, and the State Dining Room. The Main Foyer/Cross Hall connects these rooms.
Unlike the official tour, we were given unrestricted access to all of the rooms. Refreshments adorned a table in the State Dining Room, and as a harbinger of things to come, a small podium was placed at the front of the room, with the Presidential Seal in prominent display.
When you get a formal invitation, you think you need to be more reserved than a tourist. That is until you get there. I'll admit to wandering through the rooms, marveling at the history, beauty, and grandeur with my mouth agape, my eyes wide in wonder.
Some of my colleagues (who you might call jaded by longevity) were just as awe-struck, snapping pictures like the most unrepentant tourist. The most popular photo op seemed to be legislators posing behind that podium with the Presidential Seal!
Let's face it. The White House is just plain cool.
Walking through those rooms, you're treading on the same floorboards as Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Reagan.
Passing the Grand Staircase, picturing Ron and Nancy walking arm-in-arm down those steps to attend a State Dinner in the East Room, you'd have to be dead to be unmoved by it all.
It would be incredible enough to be there, but it was made more memorable by the addition of the annual Christmas decorations. I am best described as a Christmas "junkie," but nothing I've ever seen compared to those decorations. First Lady Laura Bush has chosen a story theme on which to base the decorating effort, and it is magnificent.
On Monday, I'll try to describe the event itself, and give you a sense of what it's like to spend a little quality time with the President of the United States.