I know we already wrapped up Charlotte’s Corner, but my last day was too extraordinary not to share with the NASFAA membership.
Throughout my last week as the NASFAA DME policy intern we heard rumors that President Obama would be signing the bipartisan student loan interest rate bill passed by Congress a few weeks earlier. Then, on Friday at 11 a.m. NASFAA got the call I’ll never forget: I was invited to attend as a student representative! And one other small detail—President Obama would be signing the bill in the Oval Office! As I learned all of this I literally began screaming, and if anyone reading this has been to the NASFAA offices you know this amount of noise is a pretty rare occurrence, but I think staff understood! (I will try my best to contain my exclamation points during this post, but I make no promises!)
The next few hours were a blur, but in the blink of an eye I was standing in the White House Roosevelt Room with seven other students, Sens. Schatz, King, and Durbin, Reps. Courtney and Kline, and U.S. Department of Education Under Secretary Martha Kanter, waiting to line up and enter the Oval Office. Through some stroke of luck I was placed second in line. As we stood in the hallway outside the Oval Office Under Secretary Kanter and I could hear President Obama speaking inside. After a few minutes the door opened and the President of the United States extended his hand and smiled warmly to greet us as we entered!!! He took the time to shake everyone’s hand as they walked through the door and he asked all of the students their name and where we were attending school. We then formed a semi-circle behind the desk and the President took his seat.
While I would have expected a staffer to give us instructions, the President actually turned around to chat with the group and tell us how everything would work. A few seconds later the side door to the office opened and approximately 20 members of the press flooded into the small area in front of the desk – lights on, cameras up, microphones in the air, clicking away! President Obama said a few words on the importance of the bill, thanked the members of Congress who worked so hard to get it passed, and then began signing. I’m not sure how it happened, but I was literally only two feet from his right elbow while it all happened!
As quickly as it began, it ended. The President thanked the press for attending, and they were ushered out. Our group was then instructed to move to the front of the desk as we would be taking a few photos with the President. I very quickly stepped up and was able to stand right beside the President, who put his arm around me (AH!) while we posed. Even looking back on this now, I still can’t believe it happened. As everyone filed out of the room and the President stood by the door to shake our hands while we exited, thanking us for our attendance – not that anyone felt like WE needed to be the ones being thanked! Afterwards the students were taken next door to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and interviewed about the experience and the bill, and then it was time to turn in my visitor badge and head back to the NASFAA office.
I don’t think words can describe how amazing this experience was. To be in the same room with the President was incredible, let alone stand right beside him while he signed into law such an important piece of legislation. I feel so lucky to have had this experience -- it is something I will remember for the rest of my life. While I don’t feel “thank you” is strong enough, I just want to say thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU to NASFAA and the DME contributors who made all of this happen.
Last—but certainly not least—I had one more surprise waiting for me last week. My boyfriend Adam arrived in DC shortly after I met the president, to help me move back to Connecticut after this amazing adventure. On Saturday I took him around to all of the exciting places I'd fallen in love with this summer. As we were walking up Capitol Hill and I was chatting away about something, he very abruptly stopped me, said he had a very important question to ask, dropped down on his knee (with the beautiful dome of the U.S. Capitol in the background) and proposed, saying "I'm not sure if this can live up to meeting the president, but I'm hoping it comes close."
I said yes! So it was QUITE an eventful 24 hours for me!
I think the rest of my life has A LOT to live up to after the adventures of last week!
View past issues of Charlotte's Corner and be sure to check out Charlotte's Facebook album on NASFAA’s Facebook page for pictures of Charlotte in the Oval Office!
Publication Date: 8/13/2013