Click on photo to enlarge or download: Here I am behind the podium of the White House Press Briefing Room. I waited behind more than 10 French reporters to get this picture. The French reporter who took it was very nice, but he did not speak English. SHFWire photoBy Caitlin Turner
My golden ticket to the White House came this week.
After losing two coin tosses against my fellow interns and being the slowest person to email my boss about going to White House events, it was finally my turn to go to the president’s house.
To say I was excited was an understatement because not only was I about to see Barack Obama and President Francois Hollande of France, but I had also seen the first lady a few days earlier at an event.
Obama held a press conference Tuesday in the White House East Room with the French president during the State Visit.
I was nervous about getting into the building and holding my own among the other reporters.
When I arrived at the White House gate, I buzzed through security and was told to walk up the driveway to the briefing room. As I walked, I tried to take in the moment of being on the White House grounds, feeling like a cool reporter with my press badge and trying to calm myself down so no one would know I was an intern.
I had heard from my fellow interns that it was relatively easy to make friends in the press room because most people understand what it is like to be new and have no idea what you are doing.
I thought, “Maybe I’ll make a new friend, perhaps someone who works at the New York Times.”
Well, there was a bit of a logistical problem with that.
I don’t speak a lick of French. Some days, I can barely get by with English.
So when I walked into the briefing room, you can imagine my surprise when I found native English speakers to be the minority. Of the hundred journalists in the room, I would say about 95 of them were French.
Click on photo to enlarge or download: President Barack Obama smiles as a French reporter asks him whether he likes Great Britain or France better. “First of all, I have two daughters,” Obama said. “And they are both gorgeous and wonderful, and I would never choose between them. And that’s how I feel about my outstanding European partners.” SHFWire photo by Caitlin TurnerI barely found a seat and waited until we were allowed to go upstairs to the East Room. It was nice not to be the only new person to the White House. At least all of the French reporters wanted to have their pictures taken with everything too.
Someone from the press office finally came downstairs and escorted us to the East Room. It still blows my mind that I was allowed to walk in, just like that.
Once we got there, it was very much an “every man for himself” situation. People were pushing and bumping each other to get the best view of the podium.
To my delight, I was able to set up my tripod and thereby, “claim my land,” relatively easily and get to work.
During the entire press conference, I was about 10 feet away from both presidents. There are no words to describe how cool it was to see Obama interacting with the press. Sometimes, he even called reporters by name.
It all ended entirely too quickly, and as I was escorted off the grounds, I hoped that this was not my last visit to the White House. Something tells me it wasn’t.