By Pamela Engel
I had been to the District a few times before coming here to intern with the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire and visited nearly every tourist magnet but the White House. I saw it from outside the wrought-iron gates but had never been inside.
I always told myself that I would take a tour the next time I was in D.C., but I never thought that my first trip in would be as a reporter covering a ceremony the president was hosting. That’s pretty cool.
Getting in wasn’t easy. I had to be cleared a day in advance and then present two forms of identification to security officers at the guard shack. Then, just like with every other government building in D.C., I also had to go through a metal detector. Once inside the grounds, I was directed to the press room.
It’s hard not to feel out of place when you’re among veteran reporters who clearly know what they’re doing. It was surreal for me to be sitting in the White House press room, at 21 years old, waiting to go see the president of the United States, but everyone else was completely unfazed. It’s routine for them.
After waiting for about half an hour, I followed the other reporters out to the Rose Garden, where President Barack Obama was going to honor the NCAA women’s basketball champions. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I’m not a sports fan, but that didn’t matter. I just wanted to see the president.
The reporters and videographers all lined up behind the chairs set out in the Rose Garden for ceremony guests. As I looked around, I saw badges from the AP, the Washington Post and the Houston Chronicle.
When Obama strode out to the podium, which bore an official seal, it occurred to me that not all reporters can say they’ve covered an event the president attended.
All the waiting around in the press room (both before the ceremony and in between the ceremony and the kids’ basketball clinic) was definitely justified by the experience, and I left feeling like I’d added something to my list of D.C. bragging rights.