We live in a nation of hate politics. Blame and scandal lead the headlines. Even those with very little understanding or research feel free to toss around words of anger toward our leaders. They can, because we live in a country where we have that freedom of speech. As a mother raising what I hope will be active and educated American citizens, I feel responsible for teaching my children that regardless of personal politics, our leaders are to be valued. While many people in power abuse it, those offices themselves are to be honored and respected. It is okay to dislike how our elected officials are doing their jobs, but that those jobs: mayors, governors, senators, representatives and the presidency are offices that deserve respect. They make up our government. They represent democracy.
As a family, we have had the honor to be in the presence of a US President three times. We saw President George W Bush in 2001 and 2002, and today we were just a few feet away from President Barack Obama.
1000 tickets were available to attend the President’s speech at Muniz Air Base in San Juan, PR. This morning at 6:00am we got a call that a few tickets were available, and we could have them.
The hours that followed went something like this:
Driving to the Air Base we passed Police officers by the dozens. This is a photo just outside our local grocery store. To the right is usually the school bus stop.
Knowing the gate guards on base was helpful, as we avoided the lengthy waits at the public meeting point to take in shuttle buses.
We still had to wait in the lines. Security was set up like an airport (no photos allowed there) and they had a field day examining my Nikon and big zoom lens.
Inside the crowded hangar, it was standing room only. We knew exactly where the plane would be coming in, and crossed the hangar to find a perfect viewing spot. With about 90 minutes to stand and wait, we had a great experience watching the secret service and the press running around. We watched the snipers load up and take their positions. The girls were fascinated.
Oddly enough, NBC news took some time to interview us (yes, the 4 non-locals in the entire place.) While the piece didn’t appear on the broadcast, I enjoyed listening to my girls verbalize why this day was important to them. I don’t believe my children have a sense of their political beliefs yet, but I know that Barack Obama is their president. They witnessed the campaigning, they debated issues in class, and they saw history made in their lifetime. As the minutes to his arrival grew closer, I could sense their anticipation. I joked that they could relax, “it wasn’t the Jonas Brothers.” They shut me down quickly with “no, this is better.”
The next 30 minutes went by quickly:
The arrival of Air Force One.
Descending the stairs.
A sense of the scene: the plane, the motorcade, and the press.
The crowds cheered as they realized the President skipped the cars and was walking over to us. He was flanked by a Mayor, a Governor, a Representative, Marc Anthony and many other “suits.”
His speech was concise, witty and hit all the key topic. Kudos to a good speech writer and an eloquent speaker.The scene of the crowd is representative of the era – a thousand hands with phones in the air. My photos of President Bush don’t depict this, but I can’t show you that, because those photos were taken on film.
The exit to his motorcade was just as exciting as the entrance, especially when the snipers jumped in the back of the cars with machine guns ready to protect. Harry would have hated the heat and the standing and the waiting – but that one moment would have thrilled him.
In two weeks we will be in Washington DC. We will take in the monuments, the museums and we are scheduled to take a special tour of the White House. I believe the girls will now have a very different perspective on what they are seeing. It may have taken a huge airplane, dozens of armored cars, suits, mirrored sun glasses, a music star, a sports legend, news cameras, and high security, but I can honestly say that they get it. While the president himself is just a person, his job is huge and important and significant in our history.
A few more shots of the day:
The President’s Car.
After the excitement – very hot and tired.
With Chi Chi.