I’ve met President Obama twice. The first time was October 2011 when I was first assigned a spot on the White House Press office to cover events at the Executive Mansion.
My freshman gig was to shoot in the Oval Office when Obama met with the Fund Manager of the Euro. Being my first time to shoot in the Oval Office, I was briefly introduced to President Obama.
After the formalities, I took my spot with the small pool of photographers, grabbed my shots and left the room.
Two months later, I met him again.
This time was at the lighting of the National Christmas tree. I was standing behind the stage, dialing in my gear, when Obama’s limo pulled up beside me. Michelle and the girls got out and walked past me. Then Obama slid out, straightened his coat and spotted me.
Smiling he said, “Merry Christmas, Jerry. How are you tonight?”
“Good evening Mr. President. Merry Christmas to you too.”
And with that, he was off to the holding area waiting his turn on stage.
Jerry Nelson is an American freelance writer and photojournalist. Busy on assignment in Argentina, Jerry is always interested in discussing future work opportunities. Email him at email@example.com or join the half-million-or-so who follow him on Twitter @ Journey_America
Jacob Sommer, a government student, has an even more amazing story. I’ll let him tell it:
“I’ve met Barack Obama on three occasions at political events. Each time I only had 30–45 seconds to chat with him but seemed very personable and had that politician’s skill of making you feel like the most important person in the world while you have his attention. He is very “in the moment” when he’s with you.
One of my meetings does stand out, though. My mother generally voted Republican up until 2007 when she became a huge fan of Barack Obama’s. In 2010, I was invited to meet him prior to the mid-term elections and I was able to bring my 82-year-old Mom with me. We were to meet the President in a small group with about 20 other people before he gave a speech to a huge crowd in Columbus, Ohio. While we waited for him, my mother proceeded to tell anyone within reach about how she had seen so many things in her life, lived through the Great Depression, WWII, saw the civil rights battles, a man land on the moon, etc., and now she was so happy to meet this great man. After a little while I took her aside and said, “Mom, when he comes in we’re only going to have a few moments with him so be cool. Just say ‘hello,’ shake his hand, make some pleasantries, and let him move on. Don’t embarrass me.” She assured me she wouldn’t.
A little while later the door opened, Secret Service staff came into the room with other handlers, and Obama walked in and started greeting people. We all stood in stiff attention as he went from person to person shaking hands and chatting briefly, as is the usual protocol. He got to my mother and reached for her hand but she latched onto his first! She started the same speech about having lived through Depression, WWII, seen so much, etc., and Obama listened intently and kept nodding his head and commenting. My mother wouldn’t let go and talked about how much he meant to her and how great the country had been when she was growing up, and he assured her that it was still great and would be even greater in the future. She paused and said, “Can I have a hug?” He said, “Of course!” and bent down and gave her a long, tight squeeze while I took photos. His kindness made a mockery of my fussy concern over my embarrassment.
I have trouble believing Obama ever made anyone as happy as he made my mother that evening. She tells that story to anyone who will listen and has the photos of her hug on her phone so she can look at them any time she wants. The election a few days later was a disaster for the Democrats, and Obama’s visit in Ohio certainly did nothing to help at the polls. But he carried the night in my family.”