Thursday, April 19, 2007

Meeting the President of the United States of America

It's an honor to meet you Mr. President

On Tuesday morning the grandson and great grandchildren of Irving and Ida Miller as well as Louis and Rose Berlin, met the President of the United States of America. This second generation Jew, who would of never been born if his great grandparents didn't decide leave the growing anti-Semitism of pre-Hitler Europe, avoiding the eventual concentration camps, was shaking hands with President Bush in the Oval Office.

How this began:

Early last week, I received a phone call from the Public Liaison office of the White House. They asked me questions about the President's tax-cuts and how they affected the family. I told them I was a big supporter of the cuts and they have benefited my family greatly. Increasing the child credit and eliminating the marriage penalty had very positive impacts on our lives.

After receiving multiple calls with follow up questions, the White House requested Shannon and mine Social Security numbers for the Secret Service. I actually hesitated at first, thinking it was strange the White House couldn't instantly get the numbers with a phone call to the IRS. They informed me they cannot access the numbers and after verifying I was actually speaking to the Public Liaison office, I gave them our information. They informed me that our family was being considered for a White House event with President Bush on tax-day in which he would speak on the benefits of his tax-cuts.

Cordially Invited:

Wednesday April 11Th was my oldest sons fourth birthday and the day we received the invitation to join President Bush at the White House for his tax-day event. Many people have snickered at my family, assuming that the White House used tax-payer money to pay for our trip. The truth is that the White House is not allowed to and rightfully so, use tax-payer money for political events. A private third party picked up the tab for our trip and we will always be grateful to that person for their generosity.

Arriving in D.C., Tragedy atVirginia Tech:

After scrambling to plan the logistics, buy a new suit for the wife and myself and pack up the kids, the family and I flew from O'Hare Airport to Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. Monday morning. The flight was flawless, airport check-in surprisingly easy and the Grand Hyatt Hotel in our nations capital may be the greatest hotel in the world.

Sadly, when we arrived in our room and turned on the television, we learned of the horrific events at VTU that day. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. Our excitement dwindled as we learned of the tragedy that took place only a few hours away from our nations capital. At this moment I believed our event would be canceled and understandably so.

Change of Plans:

Later that night the family met up with our dear friends the Greenberg's, who are expecting their first child at any time. I received two important calls that night. The first call came from my Rabbi back home, who had nothing but praise and congratulations for me and my family. He told me that he was very proud of me and it was wonderful for the Jewish people that after all we have gone through, meeting the President was a great triumph for our people. I was overwhelmed with pride, thank you Rabbi Goldhammer.

The second call was from the White House changing the plans. What was suppose to be a large scale media event, broadcast on all the cable news channels with clips shown on the networks was canceled due to the events in Virginia. Obviously, my wife and I understood. However, President Bush still wanted to meet with the selected families, so a meeting was planned for the morning at he Roosevelt Room in the West Wing of the White House.

Meeting President Bush

My family arrived at the NW entrance of the White House at 8:30 Tuesday morning. The security guards verified our names and appointment. We went through mental detectors, had our belongings scanned and received appointment badges to wear.

We walked the long path to the West Wing of the White House and greeted at the door by Vanessa from the public liaison office. My family and about four others, about 18 people total, where then escorted into the Roosevelt room. The President was scheduled to meet with us at 9:25.

At exactly 9:25, President George W. Bush as well as Karl Rove walked into the room. We all stood up and he asked us to sit down and relax. He thanked us for coming and apologized for the change in plans, which we all understood. He talked to us about his tax-cuts and his belief that Washington has plenty of money and it's better for families to spend their hard earned money instead of the government.

About 10-15 minutes into the conversation, President Bush asked us if we would mind changing the meeting room to the Oval Office. Everyone jumped out of their chairs in excitement. I immediately walked over to Karl Rove, shook his hand, introduced myself and my family. He was very kind and even squatted down to talk with my children.

We proceeded into the Oval Office and your brilliant blogger was as happy as Ted Kennedy in an Irish Whiskey factory.

While in the Oval Office, the President gave us a brief history lesson about the office as well as his desk, which was also used by Presidents FDR, Kennedy and Reagan. He talked about the pictures on the wall, the respect he has for the office and then went into an inspiring speech about the importance of optimism.

He talked about how he believes in doing what is right and not necessarily what is popular. The President talked about how he believes in the wake of so many tragedies, we must believe the future will be better. He also discussed the importance of freedom of religion. He said that "it doesn't matter if you are a Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wicca or whatever. What matters is your freedom to believe whatever faith you want." He did state he does believe that to be President you must have faith in your life. I happen to agree.

Thank you Mr. President:

As our meeting concluded, the President had the White House Photographer take pictures of each family with him. After snapping a couple of pictures with my family, I turned to the President, shook his hand and held it firmly. I got real close to him and said, "I want to thank you for your adamant support for the state of Israel." He replied, " Israel is the only Democracy in that part of the world and I am glad to help them. Thank you."

Good Bye Mr. President:

As we left the Oval office, I saw the joy in my wife's eye and the desire to get McDonald's from my children. I thanked the President again and we went back into the Roosevelt Room. Dana and Vanessa from the President's staff gave us all gift bags and told us that we would all received pictures in the mail signed by the President.

Special Thanks:

Obviously I am grateful to the White House staff, President Bush and a kind soul on the East coast who paid for our trip. Most importantly I am grateful to my parents who always supported my political endeavors, even when I was barely making a dime and still living at home. They always taught me to do the right thing and trust my own judgement. They will never know how much I love them and how grateful I am that they are my parents. Happy Birthday mom!

This whole event would of never been possible if it wasn't for a man who's friendship I cherish as much as my own life, John Tsarpalas. When John was Executive Director of the IL GOP, he got me in touch with the White House for a local event that never panned out. However that is how I believe the White House knew to contact me. I love you John.

Most important is my wife Shannon , who has put up with two decades of my political activism. Many nights away from home working on a campaign or dragging her to another event serving dried chicken. She would complain very little and always volunteer and help at the end. These day she edits my writings before submission and deals with the kids while I am working or in a writing mindset and can't be interrupted. She will never know how much I love her...even when she nags.



At 4/19/2007 6:38 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice piece, Paulie. You made us feel like we were there with you and the family.


At 4/20/2007 6:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good on you Paulie. I'm very proud of you.



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