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Friday, May 10, 2013

A Chance of a Lifetime

Student Photo MNTHS
The fact I got to see President Obama was not a given. I'm not teaching at Manor New Tech (MNTHS) any more. Yes, I do a lot with PBL in our district but the fact is I am not a teacher at the school being visited by the President.  But Steve Zipkes, the MNTHS Principal, told me his goal was to have all of the former teachers at the campus when Mr. Obama was there.

Finally, Tuesday night, I received an email from the White House advance team representative that I would be part of a group of "Volunteers" and I would have a meeting on Wednesday to get more information.

Wednesday afternoon there were about a dozen of us from around the district who were given assignments for the big day. At the beginning of that meeting we were told the layout and we knew that some of us might end up in the cafeteria where there would be a live stream of the speech. Again, I knew that I might just be there and not get to see the man in person. But I was asked to be at the entrance making sure students, staff, and guests entered in an orderly fashion. And I was told "when they close up you can go into the gymnasium for the speech." 

As it turned out things went incredibly smooth and about an hour before the arrival we had closed up and I was inside tweeting and talking with many of our guests. Being "in the loop" I knew when the motorcade had arrived and that he had entered the main part of the building to see the student presentations. He was free to spend as much time as he needed so when he hadn't arrived in about 20 minutes I knew the students were getting maximum time with their President.

During the waiting time I started getting tweets and texts from friends around the country who were watching the live White House feed, online.  They could see me and all of my actions so we started having some fun with strategic hand gestures and comments about the brightness of my bald spot.  Then a really cool thing happened.

They had anticipated almost 200 press for the event and there was plenty of room in the gym for that number of people. The advance team wanted it to look full and so they invited the entire student body to come in and see the speech live.  It was a little cozy but as the advance team had said, "we need it to be crowded with lots of happy cheering people."

Before the President came into the gym, he was introduced by a senior at MNTHS, Tevyn Washington.  Tevyn was one of my favorite students and his introduction was well thought out and moving. Listening to his speech caused tears to well up in my eyes for the 2nd time that day.

The president's speech started out, as was expected, very presidential but he quickly got to talking about what he had seen during his tour of the school and he included the sound bytes that had been provided for him. It was a pretty emotional time for those of us who had been at the school for a while. His entire speech can be found here. I thought I could keep it together, but he still managed to get me teared up a couple of times.

Thanks to the military I've been in the presence of Presidents,Vice Presidents, Secretaries of State and Secretaries of Defense. But once I had left service I really didn't picture being able to see the President. Especially in a small town in central Texas.

Mr. Obama spoke the truth yesterday. He didn't embellish his remarks and his speech writer didn't make up statistics.  We are doing good things in this district. We feel that we have such a long road to go to get where we want to be. We see the blemishes. We know where we are lacking. But for one day a school district and a town could stand together and beam with pride as the whole nation recognized the efforts of some of their own. It was a day none of us will ever forget.