National Day of Prayer
I read that the Obamas are not hosting an event in the White House honoring the National Day of Prayer this year here. In 2002, I was fortunate enough to accompany Mrs. Bright to Washington and the White House for this great event. (Above, Mrs. Bright introduces me to Shirley Dobson, chair of the event.) Having grown up right outside D.C., I had never been inside the famed home of presidents, so this was a special occasion indeed.
I dug out my notes from that day and thought I’d give them a post here. You may not know that Mrs. Bright helped introduce legislation that helped make the Day of Prayer a national observance. Here’s my take on the trip on 2002:
THE WHITE HOUSE: On Thursday, we scurried through the security gates and into the East Entrance, checked our coats and winded our way to the East Wing. A Marine band in full dress played patriotic anthems, and I held my breath: “We’re here!” Since she had been there many times before, Mrs. Bright toured me around the Red Room, Grand Ballroom and Green Room, and I tried to soak in every sense I could: the smell, the feel, the sounds, the sights. There were about 100 guests milling around, munching on shrimp and sandwiches. I was too excited to eat much. (But I did manage to confiscate a few presidential paper napkins in my purse. I asked God for forgiveness as I did it. He said OK.)
I then promptly spilled my water. I could have died of embarrassment, but Mrs. Bright was calm and graceful and a White House employee appeared from nowhere to clean it up. (It reminded me of when kids puke at Disney World and before you can blink, they’ve covered it in some magic sand concoction that absorbs it all. How do these people know? Secret Cameras? “Puke in quadrant four, Cinderella!” “Roger that, Dopey.”)
After the water mishap, I called my Mom on my cell phone and Mrs. Bright got on the line to read an inscription on a fireplace altar given to John Adams (one of my favorite presidents). The portraits of the former presidents and first ladies gazed down at us, and the National Monument stood proudly outside the south window. The history of it all almost overwhelmed me!
Then they called us all into the Yellow Room (the one you see on C-Span). We were in the back of the line, and I was lamenting the distance to the podium, when I noticed there were assigned seats. Ours was on the front row! Due to Mrs. Bright’s role in passing the NDP legislation, we had seats of honor. She sat on the end of the aisle; I was on her left.
Across the aisle, the seat said “President” and beside his, “First Lady.” Yiipppeeee. I was embarrassingly giddy and my 75-year-old friend and I giggled like schoolgirls as we took our seats in unbelief. I guess you never get over the thrill of it.
A loud voice said: “Ladies and gentleman, the President and First Lady of the United States of America,” and everyone rose to their feet. With all the pomp and circumstance, they [George W. and Laura] entered the room and then sat down. The program began; a lovely singer from the New York City opera sang, Shirley Dobson (current NDP chair) gave some comments. The chaplain of the US Senate, Lloyd Ogilvie, spoke.
Meanwhile, I’m in my seat trying to figure out how I can get a good look at George! All I can see from my vantagepoint are his feet, and his navy socks are all scrunched down. I’m thinking, Shouldn’t there be someone assigned to making sure his socks stay up? I decide to venture my head forward and around Mrs. Bright to see him up close. Don’t you know, he sees me! Busted. Then he gives me a little wink with those twinkley baby blues, and I lean back in my seat, grinning from ear to ear while my face turns as red as my jacket. Mercy.
Then the First Lady reads Psalm 46 and introduces her husband by saying: “I’m so glad to be married to a man who is strong enough to carry the weight of our country, but is humble enough to ask for help.” Everyone applauds, and the President steps up to give Lady Laura a presidential peck on the cheek. He reads some brief remarks, and they exit amidst honor guards and anxious assistants.
We wander out of the Yellow Room, and I see Presidential Advisor Karen Hughes; I make a beeline to her only to be sideswiped by her assistant/henchman. Bummer. And that was that, my first trip to the White House.
Incidentally, I spent the next Saturday night at home in Orlando ironing and watching the White House Correspondents Dinner on C-Span. On the program, I saw George wink at someone else. I was crushed.