Utah man explains what it's like to unexpectedly have a sit-down with Obama

Barack obama roundtableAP/Carolyn KasterPresident Barack Obama participates in a roundtable about clean energy at Hill Air Force Base.

Utah resident Martin Lance Futch knows what it’s like to find yourself underdressed and sitting in front of the president of the United States.

“The biggest surprise for me was when I walked in the room and I saw the name tags for President Obama, for Sen. [Orrin] Hatch, and realised that they’re actually going to be here,” Futch told Business Insider on Tuesday.

Futch is the star of a popular Reddit post that claimed a company “mix up” led to him having an unexpected sit-down with President Barack Obama last Friday. According to an anonymous coworker who wrote the post, Futch had been merely planning to attend Obama’s speech. The coworker suggested the company would have sent its CEO if they knew their representative would be in a roundtable with Obama.

But Futch, who works as a CAD (computer-aided design) team leader at the solar energy company Vivint Solar, confirmed he was unaware he would be sitting across from the president when he arrived for the event. In addition to Futch and Obama, the roundtable also included Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker (D), and a few other people.

“Originally we thought that maybe I was just going to be a representative” for the speech, he said. “But as the time grew closer, we were told that I would be sitting down with a senior White House official.”

Futch, an avionics technician in the Air National Guard, said he discussed ways to employ more veterans in the solar energy industry with the president. Obama announced a new “Solar Ready Vets” program last week designed to do exactly that.

“I was greatly impressed by the president. He asked us questions. You could tell that this was something he truly cared about,” Futch said. “I told him I’m proud to be a member of Utah Air National Guard and also I told him we feel we’re leading a revolution in the solar industry.”

Much of the Reddit post focused on Futch’s clothing, which included a short-sleeved shirt and contrasted with the suits worn by the other people at the table. Futch told Business Insider he would have ideally donned something more formal for the occasion if he knew Obama would be in attendance.

“I will admit if I knew it was the commander-in-chief, I would have wore either my military blues or a white shirt and tie,” he said. “I was informed that the event was going to be business casual.”

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