An Unforgettable Day: Being in the Presence of the President and Shaking Hands with the First Lady

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a small city rich in history and diversity, was the perfect place for President Obama, and company, to kick off the intense, post-convention campaign. Yes, New Hampshire has a major role in elections, but that’s not the reason why Portsmouth was the “just right” place to showcase the President’s accomplishments. 

Portsmouth is booming. An enormous new General Motors dealership just opened on the city’s traffic circle, reminding us of how the president saved America’s automobile industry. The city’s third bridge has been demolished and a new, $81 million bridge is being constructed, with almost fifty million dollars in federal funding. 

The president said just last night in his DNC speech that he will “use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work -- rebuilding roads and bridges; schools and runways.” 

Small businesses are more than thriving in Portsmouth. Moxy, Budhi and Martingale Wharf are just a few restaurants that have opened in Portsmouth recently. Other restaurants that have been staples in the community aren’t losing business either; they’re getting more business. The characteristics of Portsmouth encompass everything that the president has claimed to have done and has proposed to do for this country. 

Today, President Obama became the first sitting president since George Washington to visit Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth. The museum, a collection of colonial buildings, was decorated with bunting under every window and an enormous sign that read FORWARD. The president’s campaign chose this spot to renew campaigning after a successful convention. While waiting in a large line for security, I spoke to a local woman who had VIP tickets to the event. The woman, named Molly, said that this is “part of what we love about New Hampshire with every election. I’m speechless to have the president visit our home town.” Molly then explained that the president and first lady were using her office as a “dressing room” because of its proximity to the stage. That’s something she’ll remember for the rest of her life, including the many days she will sit in that office chair knowing who was once in that room. 

The excitement from audience members was incredible. Portsmouth is a liberal city, full of the arts with multiple theaters, galleries and boutiques. So, it’s what you would expect. But, you could tell that everyone was still charged up from viewing the president’s speech on television the night before. 

The speeches from Vice President Biden and President Obama were basically identical, but shorter versions, of their convention speeches. The president went a little farther with his Republican tax cut analogies this time. “Tax cuts to help you lose a couple pounds, tax cuts to improve your love life, they think it will help everything,” the president said. The crowd had a good laugh. Other than that, it was like we were seeing the convention speech in person. It seemed no audience members had a problem with that, their cheers grew louder as President Obama listed his several accomplishments in office.

At the end of the president’s speech, First Lady Michelle Obama emerged along with Joe and Jill Biden. The four then embarked on the typical hand-shaking journey across the front of the crowd. Lucky for me, I was able to get up close to them.

Joe Biden talked in his speech of the president being full of courage with a spine of steel. As the president inched closer to me, I felt that energy. It’s truly amazing. The presence of him overtakes you. You can almost feel the vibrations of honest leadership. The First Lady followed the president, and I was able to shake her hand. The contact I made with her was longer than I had expected. Partially because I was in shock and couldn’t let go of her hand. Her beauty and elegance is even more prominent in person. By shaking and holding her hand for a good five seconds, I could sense her pure confidence and sincerity. She felt all-genuine. After Michelle (we’re on a first name basis now), the Bidens came through. I shook Joe’s hand very quickly. He, in all honesty, felt just like the person he looks like on television. You could tell he was a seasoned politician, yet he speaks the truth at the time when it needs to be heard most. That’s what I love about Joe Biden, and it was interesting to see his character personified.

The experience was truly, using the same word the president used to describe his wife’s DNC speech, amazing. This day will be unforgettable in my lifetime. I hope to, in the near or perhaps far future, chat with the president and first lady. Now I can only base my judgment of their character upon what I felt from their presence today. Their presence in a booming town called Portsmouth. And let me tell you, they are completely real. They are the perfect couple to live in our White House and lead our country to the finish line of recovery and beyond.

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Elliot Friar

I just really enjoy politics and pop culture. Follow me: @elliot_friar.

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