Exchanging Visits with President Obama



I visited Barack Obama's house on St. Patrick's Day, so it was especially nice to have him in town earlier this week, during this most signficant of months for Memphis. Felt like we were exchanging visits, as friends across regions tend to do.

Whatever your political persuasion, President Obama's brief stay in the Bluff City — to deliver the keynote address at Booker T. Washington's commencement ceremony — must humanize the leader of the free world to some degree. It's one thing to see the U.S. president on a screen, to read about him in your favorite monthly magazine, or to have him among your Google alerts. It's quite another to see, read, or hear about him appearing at places (the Cook Convention Center), eating food (Rendezvous barbecue), or clogging roads (most of downtown and a portion of the 240 loop) that we Memphians experience on a daily basis. The president isn't merely representing us when he's sharing our collective neighborhood. He's among us, as U.S. presidents should be.

When my family visited the White House last March 17th (a significant date for this Irishman, as it was my father's birthday), we were among a few hundred other "guests" who went to the trouble of requesting permission to visit through their local congressmen. Steve Cohen's office was gracious and particular in adding us to the guest list on a day the fountain on the south lawn would be green (on orders from the First Lady). We were given a time to get in line, made aware nothing beyond our wallets and cell phones would be permitted inside the White House, and were even offered a smile by two or three of the dozens of security guards we passed on the way to the East Wing entrance. (Our one brush with power came at an iron gate about 100 yards from that entrance, when Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner walked by and actually grinned at us as he held a phone to his ear. My dad, the economics professor, would surely have stopped him mid-stride.)

Seeing my young daughters stroll along White House hallways made a connection I never would have made had we not gone to the trouble of arranging the most carefully watched visit of our lives. I can picture them in the Green Room, where portraits of two presidents from Tennessee (Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk) made the room seem more than Irish. I can see them strolling through the East Room, home to countless press conferences and balls over the years. And I can picture my daughters in the grand dining room, an enormous portrait of Abraham Lincoln dominating the decor, as any image of Lincoln should. If a building can be "humanized," that visit to the White House two months ago did the trick for me.

Which brings me back to President Obama's stop in Memphis. Somehow, having walked where he's walked over the last two years, I felt familiar with the most famous guest Memphis will see this year. Having grown up with my father's mantra, "Remember who you are," guiding my life choices, I heard another voice when President Obama told the Booker T. Washington grads, "It's not where you are or what you are. It's who you are." Felt like I knew the man, and maybe he knew me.

Can't help but wonder if he prefers his barbecue wet or dry.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

Five Things To Do This Weekend in Memphis May 22nd-24th

From Square to Roundhouse, your weekend is booked.
2015.05.21 03:01 PM

Three Ways To Remember B.B. King

The thrill remains with these fitting tributes to the late “Beale Street Blues Boy.”
2015.05.18 01:59 PM

Contemporary Media Wins Certificate of Merit Award from the Tennessee Historical Commission

The award recognizes CMi for its work on “The First 150: The First Tennessee Story,” a book commemorating the bank’s 150th anniversary.
2015.05.20 12:36 PM
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Stories

Orpheum Board Names New Centre After Longtime President Pat Halloran

The Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education will be formally dedicated as such on September 24th during an event celebrating Halloran’s 35-year tenure.
2015.05.26 01:55 PM

Hip To Be Square

With more than 20 local bands set to play during its 45th anniversary celebration, Overton Square is the place to be this weekend.
2015.05.22 12:33 PM

Five Things To Do This Weekend in Memphis May 22nd-24th

From Square to Roundhouse, your weekend is booked.
2015.05.21 03:01 PM

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags


The Memphis magazine staff blog

About This Blog

"901" is the current affairs blog compiled by the staff of Memphis magazine, where readers can find breaking-news tidbits relating to all facets of life in the Bluff City. 

Regular participants include long-time Memphis editors such as Marilyn Sadler, Michael Finger, Jackson Baker, Frank Murtaugh, and Kenneth Neill, along with Inside Memphis Business staffers Richard Alley and Anna Cox.

Every Thursday our Calendar Editor, Julie Ray, posts her picks for the weekend's events and activities.

"901" is the place where Memphis readers can "dial in" to find fresh reporting of recent developments in our city's political, economic, and cultural life.

Recent Posts

Archives

Feed

Atom Feed Subscribe to the 901 Feed »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags