On Wednesday, I met President Obama. I realise I’m supposed to act all cool and hard-bitten about this, as though it was just another day in the office.
But it wasn’t.
I was at the Eisenhower Executive Offices (the building is almost next to the White House, where most of the staff works) for a press conference.
I was sitting around a table with a group of reporters and White House aide Heather Zichal, who was briefing us on how the White House is dealing with rising gas prices.
Then the President walked in.
Until that moment, just the press meeting alone had been exciting for me because I’d never been inside the White House. (My boss, Henry Blodget officially got the invite. Lucky for me he was booked and I raised my hand first when he asked the office, “Ok, who wants to go to the White House?”).
We weren’t expecting to meet the President. We had been given a general idea of who would be at the press conference — people “like” Tim Geithner and Elizabeth Warren — but we had no idea who the actual speakers would be. But of course, we were inside the Executive Offices, so anything was possible.
So there I was, happily sitting hearing how Eric Holder is monitoring speculation in oil and gas markets, and then behind me I heard a deep, “Hello, Everybody.”
I spun around. President Obama walked past me and took a seat at the table.
First reaction: My jaw dropped. (Literally, there might be a video of it on the White House website soon. Embarrassing.)
Then I came back to earth and remembered where I was and why. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss economic policy, rising gas prices, and the economic recovery. OK, reality check achieved. Then I told myself: Hold on, you just met the President. This might not happen again in your lifetime. It’s OK to be dazzled.
(And before conservative readers set off on a rant about how I was only dazzled by meeting Obama because I’m a bleeding heart liberal, you should know that I voted for McCain.)
President Obama spoke to us for about 15 minutes. (I’ll tell you what he said in the next post.) When he stood up to leave, a reporter on his left stood up to shake his hand. He’s so lucky! I thought. He got the best seat in the house and now he gets to say he shook the President’s hand. Then the next reporter in line stood up and Obama shook his hand too. And before I could think, should I stand up and shake his hand, too? I was standing up, shaking the hand of the President of the United States.
The man knows how to shake a hand! He gave great eye contact, with an enviable grip. Firm around the edges and soft in the middle, if that’s even possible. And he doesn’t appear to “shake” your hand, but it does move, in a soft sway.
Then it’s over.
I think I stared at him as he walked around the room and shook every reporter’s hand after he shook mine, but then it was time to go back to work.
Obama kept his promise when he said, “I’m not going to make any news today,” so I was more stunned by seeing him in person than I was by anything that he said. When he gives speeches in public, I imagine everyone walks away feeling the same thing I did. His presence is overwhelming; his words are not.
Still, the President *only* shakes 65,000 hands per year, and I was one of them. It was awesome.
UPDATE: John Flinn from MSN money just sent me this photo of me shaking the President’s hand!
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.