What started off as a tearful and confusing night turned into one of the most memorable experiences I could ever ask for. Thanks to the White House Correspondents’ Association and my scholarship, I was able to attend the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday and meet President Obama.
In order for me to explain such a chaotic night full of memories I’m sure to tell my kids about, I think it is best to start from the beginning.
After getting my hair done, I ended up stuck in my mother’s Prius, wondering if she could go any faster. The coordinator of the scholars Betsy told us to arrive at the Hilton by 6:30. I had 16 minutes.
Stoplights in D.C. are the worst. Once one light turned green we would go about five feet before stopping for another one. Sixteen minutes quickly dwindled to four.
I lied – traffic is the worst thing in D.C.
I was already 10 minutes late to meet the other 16 scholars, so my mom dropped me off as close as she could and I ran in my heels.
At one point police officers stopped me and others in fancy attire. The officers told us we couldn’t go any further even though I could clearly see the Hilton.
What is it with police officers and stopping black folks? Whatever, they finally let us cross and I ran up the hill. Thankfully, I didn’t trip on my way up there.
It was pure chaos. I saw bright flashes as celebrities walked around. All I could think about was finding Betsy and the others because I couldn’t miss my chance to meet President Obama.
This entire blog would be pointless and I’d have to tell my kids the story of how I almost met the President of the United States.
Passed by Don Lemon and my mood worsened.
I’m not ashamed to admit I was close to tears by this point. It seemed the ushers were out to get me. One would tell me to take the escalator upstairs and the next one would tell me to go back down.
They were incredibly helpful.
I finally spotted Betsy.
She assured me I didn’t miss my chance to meet the Obamas. She made me sit for a second to calm down. By the time we went downstairs I felt a little better having the coordinator by my side. She told me to use my height to my advantage and find the other scholars when I got into the VIP room.
I originally thought the red carpet area was chaotic. Then I entered the VIP room, where celebrities, politicians and journalists were forced to get friendly in the tight space.
I noticed Gabourey Sidibe and freaked out. Someone stepped on my dress. I’m pretty sure it was the wife of Jim Avila, a reporter for NBC News. But she apologized and complimented me on my dress so all was forgiven.
7:45 p.m. (I MET HIM. WHAT? WHAT?)
I contemplated asking Obama for a selfie while I waited in line, but I had to hand my phone to a White House employee.
When I looked up I found President Obama standing near me with that charismatic smile on his face. It’s that type of smile where it seems like he is proud of you from the toes up. Everything I planned on saying disappeared and, instead, I’m pretty sure I looked like a fish out of water.
He shook my hand and I somehow managed to get out a “thank you” and maybe “it’s an honor to meet you.”
Obama told me he thought Maryland was a great school and, as I figure out that now is a good time to say something more, I realized Michelle Obama was waiting.
She complimented my dress.
I could barely handle myself. I thought I was going to die.
“What school do you go to?” she asked me. As we talked, I contemplated how I could become as inspiring as this woman.
While we were chatting the photographers snapped a photo of us. I imagine, when they send it to me, that it will probably include me with my mouth wide open and my eyes squinted.
But it didn’t matter. President Obama made me giddy and Michelle looked stunning.
By the time I recovered from the presence of the Obamas, I finally took in the scene in front of me. The huge ballroom held so many attendees milling about, chatting loudly with glasses of wine in their hands.
Someone joked with me about us being mice looking for cheese. His comparison was understandable as I tried to maneuver around the tables and long gowns without bumping too much into others.
I passed Laverne Cox and probably stared.
Thankfully the other scholars were bold enough to talk to celebrities and we ended up joking with Eric Stonestreet, who plays Cameron on Modern Family. I took a quick selfie with Anthony Anderson from Black-ish before we left to find our table.
I finally sat down after the opening ceremony. Waiters bustled around us and placed fancy plates in front of us.
The food was impressive.
One of the coordinator’s told us not to leave for the bathroom because we were about to walk across the stage.
If my heels had not failed me yet I was really hoping they wouldn’t while I walk across the stage.
The scholars were ushered towards the stage and some journalists whispered quick congratulations to us as we passed.
Despite the bright lights and what I would later find out was the C-SPAN camera filming my walk across the stage, I made sure to thank everyone and shake their hands.
When I got to Michelle Obama she smiled over at me again and gave me a huge hug. In a daze, I heard her tell me I’ll do great things and to make sure to rock the world. I’m pretty sure I gushed over her once more before walking over to President Obama.
There was that smile. With a big handshake he wished me the best of luck.
Obama walked up to the podium and before long we were all laughing as he joked about his age, remarked about the similarities between his life and the show Black-ish and the media’s comments on his presidency.
What I didn’t expect was for him to bring on Luther, the angry translator.
“And we can count on Fox News to terrify old white people with some nonsense. Sharia Law is coming to Cleveland. Run for the damn hills. That was ridiculous,” the translator, played by Keegan-Michael Key, said.
By that point in the night, I was so happy I was near tears.
Cecily Strong dazzled the crowd with some hard-hitting jokes but then ended with a charming smile.
She went after Joe Biden’s need to give back rubs, the 2016 presidential candidates and Obama.
At one point she made remarks about the Secret Service, calling it “the only law enforcement agency that actually gets in trouble if a black guy gets shot.”
My favorite joke was definitely the one on women’s rights.
“Since I’m only a comedian, I’m not going to try and tell you how to do politics,” Strong said. “That would be like you guys telling me what to do with my body.”
As I tried to find the exit, I happened to pass by a group of men. I accidentally made eye contact with one of them and smiled over at him. By the time he walked past I realized I just smiled at Bradley Cooper.
Naomi Harris is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org