My once in a lifetime experience: Seeing the President of the U.S.


By Gabriella Levine

So you can only imagine the indescribable excitement I felt when I heard that Obama was coming to my hometown of Albany, NY to give a speech on the state of the economy.

When I received the news that Obama would be making a visit to the University at Albany NanoTech complex, mere miles from my home and only about 25 minutes from Union’s campus, I proceeded to frantically call everyone on this planet to secure a press pass for his speech.

I discovered that the White House Press Office was the source for press passes, and I began to call them day after day (which eventually turned into hour after hour), determined to to have my name added to the RSVP list for the event. I called so many times that I finally decided to stop looking up their number and instead added their contact to my contacts list in my phone, which I ingenuously labeled as “White House.”

Finally, I got the email confirmation for the event. I immediately called my friends and family to let them know that I was going to see the president of the United States. Some (the strictly conservative, aggressively natured Italian family members) offered up some disgruntled congratulations, while others (my sarcastic, albeit realistic boyfriend) advised that, if I wanted to keep my life, I couldn’t attempt to jump through the crowds and hug the president.

The big day rolled around on a dreary and unappealing Tuesday morning. I waited with my photo editor, Trevor Martin, and the official news crews of the Capital Region in a parking lot near the site for about an hour in the pouring rain. I recognized the familiar faces of the local newscasters around me who I had grown up watching. They seemed to be irritated about the wait, but I just felt lucky to be there in the first place, rain or no rain.

We were finally shuttled to the NanoTech site, directed through Secret Service security checkpoints, and then ushered into a massive, multi-million dollar room called, “NanoFab X.”

Just before entering NanoFab X, I received an orange press pass that had my name on it. At the top of the pass were the words: “Official property of the U.S. Government, White House Press Pool.” I looked around to find every other member of the media nonchalantly attaching the pass to his or her clothing, I tried to conceal my excitement as I casually attached the ugly, bright orange pass to my sweater, pretending that this wasn’t a huge, once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience.

We waited for about an hour. The crowd was buzzing with excitement, but once the presidential seal was placed on the podium, an anxious silence filled the room. Then, after a few moments, “Hail to the Chief” began to play as Obama jogged onto the stage.

The 20 minutes of Obama’s speech flew by, and I tried to absorb his message as he addressed various issues, including a desire to influence job creation by working toward what Governor Cuomo labeled as “the next economic drive” in the nation.

I thought about the significance of the president’s choice to come to Albany’s NanoTech complex, and I realized that this location suggested that the next economic drive in our nation would come in the form of advancing technology.

Throughout his speech, Obama emphasized that Albany is an ideal model for the nation because of its rapid progression, as evidenced by the region’s various technological entities and projects.

“I want what’s happening in Albany to happen all across the country—places like Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh,” Obama said.

Some say that the ideas Obama’s administration encompassed—hope and change—died within the first four years of his presidency. But I beg to differ. After finally getting the chance to watch Obama speak firsthand, I’d argue that hope and change are evident in various ways, first and foremost by the fact that the NanoTech site here in upstate New York is experiencing a $4.8 billion expansion with an incredible surge in high-tech manufacturing. As Obama pointed out, the Capital Region is steadily moving forward and evolving, at a rate that garnered the admiration and recognition of the president himself.

My silly dream to see Obama speak came true because he recognized the intrinsic value of a future economy filled with high-tech jobs. His message of hope and change is demonstrated in our nation’s efforts to work toward ever-advancing technology.

At Obama’s speech in my home of Albany, hope and change filled the room. All you had to do was listen to him speak.


Leave a Reply