I’ve had some pretty amazing opportunities as a blogger but the one at the top of the list has to be the other week when I was invited to the White House.
The WHITE HOUSE!!!!
Though I was born in DC and have lived in the area my whole life, the only time I’ve been to the White House is for an elementary school field trip and all I remember is lots of place settings and what I felt were tacky little rooms all in green, red, or blue. So when SheKnows reached out and asked if I’d like to attend an event there for Lets Move! I screamed, did a little dance, and then calmly replied, “I'd be honored, thank you!” I scheduled PTO with my job for the first half of Tuesday; sorry boss, gotta take some time off to hang with Michelle Obama!
Of course the most important question… what to wear? Usually this would be easy – a dress with an interesting print and a pair of pumps. But it was going to be chilly, we’d be both inside and outside, we’d be walking on grass/possible mud, and oh yeah, I have a broken toe so pumps or any heel is NOT going to fly. We were told the event was Business Casual. I spent Monday night texting selfies of my possible outfits to my sister, got myself all worked up in a frenzy and decided to take a bath, go to bed, and figure it out in the morning. Come morning, I was more in an, “eff it, this isn’t about me it’s about Let’s Move!” mentality and chose to wear this dress (matte jersey doesn’t wrinkle or crease when sitting, doesn’t show sweat if I get nervous, has a fun print, isn’t too short or too tight) and this coat (it’s a statement all on its own and will bring cheer to a grey and drizzly day). As for shoes, this is where I said eff it and just decided to wear my silver brogues. They’re flat, roomy enough for my toe, won’t get ruined in rain or a bit of mud, and at least look as though I put forth some effort. They didn’t go, I even texted my friends Alison and Rosana that I felt very Reality Bites wearing brogues with a dress, but comfort (and not sinking into soft grass) always trumps style!
The Metro was having some serious issues so I splurged on taking an Uber to the White House. My driver was a sweetie, he asked where I was going and we got into a long conversation about blogging and monetizing the internet. By day he’s an Uber driver but by night he has an Amazon store. I learned how families help relatives who are new to the US set up Amazon stores as a way to make money; this system is great for them because they don’t have to be fluent in English, they don’t need a resume, and as my driver pointed out, they aren’t judged by their looks or ethnicity. He used to sell electronics but found the stock he was receiving was not consistent quality so now he sells books. He dropped me off at the Southeast Gate to the White House, where security let me right in when I mentioned what I was there for.
Can I just say how awesome the White House staff is? Everyone is so genuinely nice. Even security guards smile and say hello. It’s a very chill vibe, everyone is so confident in their jobs and seem to really enjoy visitors.
They had a coat check (with even more lovely people managing it), we bloggers and online influencers milled around checking out the library and many of us took White House bathroom selfies and photos with the paintings of First Ladies.
We then went up a flight of stairs to a large room where a woman was playing the piano and they were serving coffee, tea, juice, and water (with a few granola bars on trays). I felt super elegant sipping java from a china cup and saucer and had a fellow blogger take my photo with Bill. I saw a few bloggers I knew like Julia Coney from All About the Pretty and Lindsay Ponta from Shrimp Salad Circus (both even more lovely in person!) and found my friend Jessica McFadden from A Parent in America and A Parent in Silver Spring. Neither of us could believe we hadn’t met in person prior to this event; we have tons of mutual friends in the blogging and DC fashion worlds and have followed one another on blog and personal social media for eons. No surprise we got along great face to face!
We then were ushered into a ballroom full of tables, gold chairs, and lovely springlike centerpieces. I was able to score a table to the left of the stage, one row back. You could feel the energy in the room, the nerves, the excitement, and likely the radio waves from all the phones Snapchatting, Periscoping, Instagramming, Tweeting, and taking selfies! There were 150 of us bloggers, vloggers, and internet influencers from all sorts of niches but the anticipation really brought us together as one.
We listened to three panels of pretty badass women who are working to make America healthier. We heard from:
- Deb Eschmeyer, Executive Director of Let's Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition
- Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health, HHS
- Dominique Dawes, Co-chair, President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and three-time Olympic gymnast (and one of my regular customers when I worked at the Express store in White Flint mall in the late '90s!)
- Christy Goldfuss, Managing Director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality
- Dr. Katie Wilson, Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, USDA
- Deborah Kane, Director, Office of Community Food Systems, USDA
- Jackie Haven, Deputy Director, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, USDA
- Stephenie Fu, Senior Policy Advisor, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, USDA
We also had a cooking demonstration from Cris Comerford, the Executive Chef for the White House. She created this salad which I know we’ll be trying out in the Gary household in the near future. After her demonstration she answered a few audience questions and thanks to that I found out the Obamas’ favorite comfort food is a roast chicken which they have for Sunday dinner every week.
And then the reason why we were all buzzing with excitement, the keynote speech from Michelle Obama. Oh. Em. Gee. I’m not one to get all spazzed out by famous people, but it was pretty exhilarating to be just 12 feet from a woman I find such an inspiration. She’s even more lovely in person. She shared how before she became First Lady, she took the girls to the pediatrician and he scolded her on their poor nutrition. Immediately after she changed their diets; they ate at home more often and desserts were a once a week treat instead of an expected daily experience. A year later back at the pediatrician he was amazed and asked what she did because he had rarely seen such a change in families. When she became First Lady, she decided to make this her mission and created Lets Move!. Obama reassured that this isn’t something she will drop once they leave the White House; this is something she plans to work on and fight for the rest of her life.
And Lets Move! has accomplished so much! In just the past few years, the campaign has eliminated junk food marketing in classrooms, helped over 30 million kids have access to healthier school meals, assist with 1.6 million kids attending healthier daycare centers, and encouraged 200 corporate partners to make commitments for a healthier America.
After Obama's speech, we grabbed our coats and were led to the White House Kitchen Garden. We as a family garden; we have several square plots in our backyard and a plot in our city’s community garden. I took a ton of pictures not just for the blog but to text to Karl with inspiration. Oh I was mega jealous of their beehive and just loved how our own garden and the garden my parents had when I was a kid isn’t that different from the one at the White House. Gardening is something that really brings us all to the same level, adds this level of humanity, and it’s so awesome to eat food you planted, tended to, cared for, and picked. I know that Emerson has been more receptive to lesser-known vegetables when she has helped water them, weed their plots, and pick them for dinner. I was thrilled to hear about Farm to School; the USDA offers grants to connect school cafeterias with local farmers and ranchers which offers healthier and local options for kids. Also Let's Move! Salad Bars to Schools program is a wonderful way to get more children in America access to healthy foods.
The most important point I got from the day is we can vote with our wallets. I often mention this in regard to fashion, but it also holds true for food. If you don’t have healthy options in your local grocery or in your child’s school, SPEAK UP. We have the power to make change, in 2016 we have the ability to be heard with petitions, letters, social media, and our buying power.