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How President Obama Touched Me With Our “Conversation”

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President Obama Town Hall BET
That's me in the first row.

That's me in the first row.

I was given the honor of meeting President Barack Obama during the taping and live airing of “A Conversation with Obama” that aired on BET, MTV, and CMT.  When I was selected for this, I had no idea what was really going to happen.  Of course, I was expecting to see President Obama, even if it would be from a distance.

Waking up on Thursday October 17, 2010, I was greeted by a down poor of rain. I rode the metro and arrived at my given location around twelve.   My day did not start off too well, but I couldn’t really be upset knowing what was soon to come. I received my wristband with my seating assignment written on it.   I can remember my seat perfectly: E 1-2.   Seeing the letter E, I automatically thought I’d be in the back, but when we were bussed to the BET studio in Washington, DC, we were given directions to go to our seats. I found out that my letter was not indeed my row, but my section.   I was sitting in the front row!

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I was shocked and excited at the same time. MY first thought was “I’m going to be seen on TV!” This is sad, but true. But as I was sitting there, for approximately an hour, the idea that President Obama was going to be standing within a couple feet of me really sank in. I sort of had an epiphany. The President would be right in front of my eyes within a couple of minutes. When a man began to count down the seconds my heart started to race. Then President Obama walked out. It was so surreal. I stood in astonishment that a blessing as tremendous as this could be bestowed upon me. He answered questions while we sat and listened. He answered our questions so well. He was quick and well spoken. I admired his intelligence and sympathy for the students. He was addressed with questions regarding immigration, bipartisanship, Sudan, and rising tuition.

During a commercial break, he started to work the room or the front row at least. As he began to shake hands and speak to the students sitting in the front row, I really got excited. My excitement was halted when he had to return to the middle of the stage when the commercials came to a close. I was very disappointed because he stopped only one person over from me. During the next commercial break, he resumed right where he stopped. I was literally “star stuck” when he approached me. I stood up, shook his hand, and introduced myself. I stated that I attended the University of Maryland, College Park and my major is Communications. He asked me if he did a good job communicating and I replied, “Yes, you have done a great job.” He then proceeded to move on.

After the show was over, he attempted to shake everybody’s hand. Even though we were no longer on air, he took the time to tell us the importance of voting, whether republican or democrat. He stated that we, the students, were the future, therefore it is very important for us to be politically involved. Even though my encounter was short, it was great. I thought to myself, not only have I just met the President of the United States, I have met the first Black President. It didn’t matter that I was on TV, nor did it matter that I met Sway and Deborah Lee of BET, but I just shook the hand and spoke to President Barack Obama.  It’s a thought that has still not sunk in. I’m still in shock. I will never forget my encounter with him. I am still shaking my head, I just can’t believe it.

When I got back home, I had more time to reflect on what just happened and realized that meeting the President was indeed a true blessing, but if that was the only thing that I would’ve taken from this ordeal, I would’ve been missing President Obama’s overall message.  It’s also a blessing to be able to vote.  And a lot of us don’t utilize this right in the way that we should.  I wasn’t old enough to vote when President Obama was elected back in 2008, but I’m old enough to vote now in the gubernatorial elections and other elections.  I’m also better informed of the voting process.  The importance of this “town hall” meeting was to inform us and to educate the youth on issues that we don’t readily identify ourselves with due to our perceived or sometimes lack of knowledge.

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I walked away at the end of the day with more than just me meeting the President.  I walked away with a sense of purpose and better understanding of my role in shaping the government.  I hope others who watched took away the same message, but as always, you have to stay informed and form your own opinions.  Simply, stay educated on the issues.  This world is a crazy place and you need to know where certain issues stand because YOU can truly make a difference with your vote.

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Shiray Steward
I'm a student at the University of Maryland majoring in communications. If you want to learn more about me, hit me up on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter.

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