Friday, May 27, 2011

Mrs. Obama and Jacquelyn's Magic Pin

About ten years ago, one day when I was escorting my son into first grade, I noticed another mom who looked very familiar. It didn’t take long to recognize this mom as Jacquelyn Orton, who at the time was married to former Utah Congressman Bill Orton. Her son, Will, and my son are now about to finish tenth grade. We’ve all known each other a long time. We’ve known great teachers, not so great teachers, good things and sad things like the tragic death of Jacquelyn's husband Bill who was killed in an ATV accident two years ago.

Every year, Jacquelyn ventures back to Washington D.C. to attend the Congressional Club’s luncheon honoring the nation’s first lady. This year, I was fortunate to be invited to go with her, her friend Susan and her goddaughter, Victoria (who lives in D.C., but met us at the luncheon).

Now, I thought this would be a very fun and very cool experience, but I truly had no idea just how fun, cool and amazing it would be. I’ll start with how amazing it was to be in the same banquet room with Mrs. Obama. There were about 1600 attendees, but being in the same room and able to walk up to the main table and take her picture was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I was beyond honored. She spoke and I was struck at how down-to-earth she really is. She’s also beautiful, just like she seems to be on TV. And, she seems even taller in person than she does via media pictures. There were gift bags at the luncheon and one of the gift items was a pair of cute flip-flops. The story was that Mrs. Obama was looking around to find some that would fit her daughters. So, even though she’s the first lady of the nation, she’s first a mom. That’s pretty cool.

The entertainment was Gloria Estefan. Wow, that woman can still sing up a storm. She was also quite beautiful, and I got the biggest kick out of all of us (including Mrs. Obama), in our fancy clothes, up and dancing to the Latin beats of the Miami Sound Machine. Yeah, I’ll remember that for a long time.

I can’t even begin to share the names of all the people Jacquelyn introduced us to, but most of their last names were familiar and from the world of senators and congressmen. Everyone was so kind and gracious and the luncheon was extraordinary, a truly great time all around.

But the trip was even more than the luncheon. Jacquelyn knows D.C. probably better than she knows Salt Lake City, and she has this pin that by only a few minutes into our touring, I began to call magical. The security in Washington D.C. is like nothing you can imagine, but when security people noticed Jacquelyn’s spouse’s pin, it was as if they were suddenly tamed into respectful acquiescence. I loved the fact that it took us into places and down hallways that you just don’t normally get to see. I will forever think about D.C.’s secret tunnels and the Capitol’s back hallways as the only way to see the fun stuff.

Congress wasn’t in session but the senate was. We decided to watch the session from the gallery (oh my, I’m certain I don’t have all the right words for these places and things - forgive me) for a little while. I thought I would be C-Span bored to tears. Not even close!

The first thing I had to get past, though, was that Al Franken was sitting at the main desk when we first got there. It was hard for me not to think he’d break out into an SNL sketch at any moment. He didn’t and I was able to focus on the other goings-on.

We were able to see our political process doing something that actually meant something, something that was about something important. Senator Tom Harkin, who is from Iowa and was a senator even back when I was growing up in Iowa, was presenting facts about how many of the for-profit universities (I won’t name them, but they’re the ones that advertise on TV all the time) are cheating their students out of money, particularly the students who are able to take advantage of the GI Bill for tuition. I won’t go into detail, because I’d get the details wrong, but by the end I was fired up and ready to fight for the cause. It was another experience I’ll never forget. And, directly afterwards, Jacquelyn and her magic pin took us down a back stairway and directly to Senator Harkin. He’d been in Utah a number of years ago and involved in a children’s hospital fundraiser that Jacquelyn had also been involved in. She introduced us all and we had a great conversation. Senator Harkin’s pretty awesome, by the way.

And though the magic pin didn’t have much to do with it, we also visited the Library of Congress and signed up for reading room library cards. With these cards (don't need a magic pin to do this), we were able to go into the magnificent LOC reading room. I recommend it highly. As we left the reading room, Jacquelyn had a librarian look to see if they had my book, FARM FRESH MURDER. They do, and the librarian who helped us happened to be into mysteries. That was pretty cool, too.

But even better than all the above was the company. Jacquelyn, Susan, and Victoria were the best. We ate yummy food, talked about important things (well, we thought they were important) and laughed about things that I’ll laugh about for years. The Congressional Club put on an amazing luncheon and we had a magic pin, but bottom line it’s always the people you’re with that make things fun and memorable. And, this was the best kind of fun. Thank you, all, for one of the best adventures ever.


  1. "’s always the people you’re with that make things fun and memorable." My thoughts exactly! Last week was so much fun for me because all of the people we spent it with were! For me, the best part of FLL isn't going to the luncheon itself (though this was a particularly festive year) but, rather, introducing my friends to my "other life" in DC and watch them fall in love with the sights, sounds and characters that can't be experienced and/or don't translate on a guided tour or on TV. With that as a marker for success, I think that last week was a WIN! haha. We'll have to think up an excuse for a return trip soon since we barely had time to scratch the surface...

  2. It was perfect! And, another one sounds like a great plan!


  3. Wow. What an amazing tale you've told here. I'm so glad you got to do all this. I'm really jealous that you got to meet Mrs. Obama.

  4. It was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, English Teacher. I didn't actually meet Mrs. Obama, but I got to be in the same banquet room with her - I was a true fangirl. ;-)

  5. Okay, well, you got to see and hear her in person and take her pic. That's almost as good as an actual introduction. You still got to see her as a real person.

    (I once got to see UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown in person for an interview at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I thought that was pretty cool, but he's nowhere near as amazing a person as Michelle Obama is, so I can't come close to your coolness. Now, if you'd had a chance to see Hilary Clinton, too, that would've been the epitome of spiffy.)

  6. The Math TeacherApril 9, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    Great story.

    So what has made the great teachers great? The not so great teachers?