My (Two!) Phone Calls with the President

Last week, I shared my experience meeting the delightful Michelle Obama. Now, I’ll tell you how I had two very important phone calls with her husband. 

As much as I wish they were private calls, they weren’t. In fact, I have no idea how many others were on the line. But apparently, if you donate a certain amount of money (and they think you might be willing to pony up some more), you too will get invitations to join the President on the phone for about 30 minutes.

I was at work on the Friday after I met the First Lady when the first invitation arrived in my inbox. The subject was “Sign up for today’s call with President Obama,” and I was pretty certain it was one of those e-mails that is just meant to grab your attention, and you won’t really get to do whatever it says. You know, like those campaign e-mails that say something like, “Catherine, Come Meet Me and Michelle for Dinner!” You open the e-mail and find out that yes, you could be eating dinner with the Obama’s, but you have to donate something first and then get chosen out of about a bajillion people. That’s why when I clicked this e-mail open, I was not expecting much.

Well, I’m glad I opened it, because the short message inside was pretty cool: “Catherine ““ President Obama is hosting a call this afternoon with a select group of his strongest supporters ““ and he’d like you to be on it.”

That was far and away the most flattering thing I heard all day. The President wants to talk to me! I’m part of his select group of strongest supporters! Are they sure I was supposed to be on the list?

I quickly RSVP’d that yes, I would love to be part of the call. There was also an area where you could submit a question, but I figured it would be asked by a moderator and not by the actual person asking, so I decided not to come up with one. This was a decision I would come to regret. I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering how this was all going to go down, and at promptly 1 p.m. my time, I dialed into the number, turned on speaker phone, and waited.

It didn’t take long before one of the campaign leaders who always sends out Obama e-mails came on the line, and told us that (understandably) the president was wrapping something up, and would soon be joining us. He went on to tell us about fundraising efforts and a few other things, and was suddenly interrupted by another man’s voice. “This is the White House operator. I have the President on the line for you.”

And then, there he was. Obviously, his voice sounded exactly the same as it does on television, but for some reason this fact still shocked me. I guess I was still giddy from being told that the president was on the line for me. He started talking about fundraising and the battle that he was fighting, and I decided that unlike when I heard his wife speak, I was going to record this.

I thought I could record the whole thing on my laptop, but for the life of me I couldn’t get the webcam to turn on. So, I grabbed my regular camera and frantically started deleting photos I knew I had already downloaded so I could have as much as space as possible to record. I ended up with three short videos (I just decided to film the phone, since that made the most sense), the longest one being 32 seconds. Not only did I want to remember this, but I was pretty sure no one would believe me when I announced, “Oh, hey, I talked with Barack Obama today. No big deal.” This way, I had proof.

Since I wasn’t sure what he was going to say as I recorded, I ended up being pretty lucky, because I got some good stuff. I was able to record him talking about how everyone in this country deserves a fair shot, which is something I believe from the bottom of my heart. Towards the end of the call, I also was able to capture him saying, “I need you, and the country needs you. Let’s get this done. Let’s stay focused”¦you will see me working as hard as you ever have.”

As I hung up the phone, I felt energized. I know the point was to raise more money, but it also helped me feel pumped and ready to go out and spread the word. I was slightly upset that the people whose questions were chosen were able to actually ask their questions, because I was convinced that had I taken ten seconds to think of something, it would have been awesome and of course they would have picked it.

I didn’t expect to get another invitation so soon afterwards (especially considering I didn’t give any more money), but I did on a Sunday in early September. My sister and I had brunch plans, but I RSVP’d yes anyway, figuring we could listen in the car.

The call was the same as the other, with the president talking and then taking a few questions (no, the hard-hitting and provocative question I came up with this time was not chosen and yes, I’m still bitter). He was pretty late to the call, because he was in Colorado at a rally, but he got down to business once he came on the line. My sister had the same giddy look on her face as I had during my first call, and I could tell she felt as important as I did. It didn’t matter if there were a million other people listening in; we were on the phone with the president.

So, those were my phone calls with Barack Obama. I don’t know if there were more and I had just been cut off because I didn’t give any money, or if those were the only two. I still feel energized from those calls, and can’t believe the doors that open to you once you open up your wallet. I know that it was a fundraising thing and I wasn’t invited because he was dying to have me listen to him, but it was still pretty exciting and something that I totally plan on bragging about for a long time.

By Catherine

Catherine is a Southern California based freelance writer, whose work has appeared in everything from the New York Times to Entertainment Weekly. The highlight of her life (so far) was being featured on MSNBC for a story she wrote on Hello Kitty wines...she knew one day her love of all things HK would come in handy.

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