From the moment the White House called me to ask me if I would introduce the President for his speech at the University of Michigan on April 2 to the moment I finished writing this, my life has been flipped upside down.
On Tuesday morning, April 1, at 11 a.m., my phone rings. I let it go to voicemail. Twenty minutes later when I hit play, the message begins: "Hi Mira, this is Howli from the White House."
My heart stops. Well actually it doesn't stop, it starts beating faster and faster. I immediately call THE WHITE HOUSE back. Howli starts asking me questions. She asks me about being a server, and paying my way through college on tips. She then asks if I'd be willing to meet with senior advisors in a press conference before President Obama's speech at the University of Michigan tomorrow (April 2) and says someone will contact me later with details. Five hours go by with no word from the White House. So I'm thinking, "Maybe it is one of my friends playing a really cruel and well thought out April Fool's joke on me?"
But finally my phone rings again. "Hi again, Mira it's Howli".
Yes! Finally, some details!
But instead of explaining what would happen at the press conference tomorrow she asks me if I would be willing to introduce the President for his speech. My immediate response: "You're lying to me, April Fools!" -- It was not an April Fools joke. I was going to introduce the President of the United States. For the next few minutes, she explains what I would be doing and the details of what my speech should look like. Granted, she had to repeat everything three times because I was hyperventilating.
And with that phone call, my life for the next 24 hours would be a whirlwind of crazy. I had to go to the speech site to scope out the stage and to practice speaking. Being comfortable at the podium is important, so the staffers recommended that I practice by saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
I am surprised I wasn't dropped right then and there because I forgot the Pledge of Allegiance due to my nerves being out of control. Working on my introduction after that lackluster warm-up was the most nerve-wracking experience. That one-to-two minute introduction would be the most important minute of my life (that is, until I become President).
I tried to get a good night's sleep, but that clearly was not going to happen. After a restless night, I tried to take it easy in the morning: practice my speech, make sure my outfit looked okay (a blue dress for America and for the University of Michigan -- go blue!), and attempt to stay calm.
When I met up with the White House staffer, I was calm and collected on the outside, but absolutely freaking out on the inside. After a bit of talking she asked me for my phone, which was a struggle. How am I supposed to live tweet hanging out with White House staffers now? Then she broke the news to me. Instead of attending a press conference with senior staffers, there was going to be a lunch with President Obama, which two others and I would be attending. At this point, I am in complete shock. After the details were settled and everyone in Zingerman's Deli was given security clearance, I simply sat and waited.
The thirty-minute wait for President Obama was actually three hours, but finally, he arrived. I squealed and tried to stay calm as President Obama walked over to my table at Zingerman's. At this point, I'm thinking, "OMG THE PRESIDENT IS SITTING NEXT TO ME," "OMG BARACK OBAMA TOUCHED ME," "SMILE, LAUGH, BE FRIENDLY, OMG BE NICE TO THE PRESIDENT."
We all started talking and the conversation just ran from there. Obama was -- non-surprisingly -- very conversational. He asked me about how much I work and how I pay for school (what's been easiest and what's been most difficult), and what I think of raising minimum wage. It felt as if Obama really wanted to understand the different stories and struggles of the people he talked with. Obama seemed genuinely interested in my experiences and my life.
While the conversation stayed generally professional and focused around raising minimum wage and efforts to revitalize Detroit, there was witty banter here and there. Someone had said that I could now put eating lunch with Obama on my resume; however, a few minutes later, I got avocado spread all over my face. Obama handed me a napkin and informed me that I would no longer be able to put him on my resume. This could have been painfully embarrassing, but Obama was so casual about the fact that I had food on my face that I instead thought, "Cool, the President is making fun of me".
The avocado incident was brought up again as we were taking a picture at the end of our lunch; Obama told me to make sure there were no crumbs on my face and patted my back. I HAVE AN INSIDE JOKE WITH OBAMA.
While I was not put in the same car as Obama in the motorcade on the way to the speech site, I guess I'll have to take riding in the presidential motorcade as a consolation prize. Everything back stage was crazy: so many secret service agents; so many staffers; so many people knowing what was going on; so many people not knowing what was going on -- a typical political scene.
As I waited for the sound guys to tell me to go, it started: my nervous burps. But, this was not the time to start burping, it was time to go! As I walked out onto the stage my heart was jumping out of my chest. Public speaking normally scares me, let alone introducing the Leader of the Free World. I would say it was just a little intimidating. As my sixty seconds nearly came to a close, I couldn't help but add a plea to Obama, in which I asked him to get me a job in the White House. Then finally, the words that are still breathtaking to say, "Please welcome the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama!!!!"
It was the most amazing, and memorable day of my entire life. To say that I not only introduced the President, but also ate lunch with him (and slightly tried to coerce him into having a bite of my sandwich) is surreal. I was so lucky to have this opportunity and I would like to thank the Academy and everyone who voted for me -- wait, wrong speech.
All joking aside, what the President is trying to do by raising minimum wage is a very important issue that everyone should get behind. And finally, I would like to say deeply and truly from the bottom of my heart -- thank you to the Obama Administration for everything. It is a day I will never forget.