Lisa Leslie: “And there he was ... OMG, I’m going to faint ... “
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If you followed my journey to the inauguration in January on this blog, then you know I was seeking to meet President Obama. My mom always told me, ‘Whatever you put in the universe is what you get back!’ She was right, and my husband and I live by that motto today.
Out of the clear blue sky, our good friend Michael calls to see if I would like to go meet President Obama and the first lady. ‘Of course!’ I exclaimed. Then I said, ‘Are you serious?’ He was! Boy, I tell you, God Is Good All The Time!!
I met up with Donna Orender, our WNBA president, and off we went to the White House. We arrived and took pictures in the East Room. We met so many wonderful people like the president and CEO of [the humanitarian organization] Care. I also spoke to several new Cabinet members including the first African American attorney general, Eric Holder, who joked he was not only a fan but was a little upset his two daughters took to soccer more than basketball.
After 20 minutes of mingling with the bigwigs, Donna and I were summoned to take our seat ... IN THE FRONT ROW!!
Oh my goodness, wait till my grandma hears this. After taking several photos with other guests who are fans of the WNBA, including Dominique Dawes, they asked us to take our seat to begin the program.
As we sat down, the energy of the room was high with anticipation of the next announcement. To our surprise, in walk the members of the new White House Council on Women and Girls. After a standing ovation, First Lady Michelle Obama was introduced. Wearing her Sparks purple, I was so proud to see her. She walked tall and looked
downright elegant, with her smile lighting up the room.
We all wanted to hug her. Well I did, but Donna got lucky and sat one seat away from her so she shook Donna’s hand and thanked her for coming.
As the first lady’s ovation came to an end (two minutes later), they announced Valerie Jarrett, who is so awesome you all need to Google her because I don’t have enough time to write how wonderful she is. But one thing for sure, President Obama knows how great she is, that’s why he appointed her chair of the council to provide a coordinated federal response to the challenges confronted by women and girls. I sat near her mother, who looked on as proud as any parent would be to see their daughter (who’s African American) be as close as she is to the president. She spoke and before long she said, ‘I give you the president ... ' or something like that :)
And there he was ... OMG, I’m going to faint ...
He is really tall, handsome and cool, just like he looks on TV. And a little pigeon-toed, I might add. As he made his way to the podium, he looked at me and WAVED!!! (OK, well he couldn’t miss me standing 6-foot-5 plus heels ... Don’t hate, he waved at ME!)
He smiled a great smile and began another one of his eloquent speeches. He made all women feel as though he understood our struggles in this world of male domination. He spoke about us receiving lower pay while doing the same work, the struggles in sports and his support of Title IX. He learned so much from his grandmother and mother that he will not let their hard work be in vain. It was great to hear the leader of our country not only recognize the inequalities in our country but to see him sign his first executive order creating this council to ensure that our children have a higher seat to sit in than we do today. Simply The Best!! Today was a great day for all women and girls.
After the president signed the order, he said he wanted to meet a few people. I was honored to be one of those people.
President Obama shook my hand and said he was happy I was there. As the first lady passed behind us, he said, leaning his head in her direction, ‘And you know I like tall women!’ We smiled and I then presented him with two personalized autographed books for his daughters, Sasha and Malia. I told the president it was an honor to meet him and that my husband and mom love him too and pray for his family. We were interrupted by photographers, who snapped photos -- including Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
I went on to challenge the president to a game when he comes to L.A. He then said, ‘We will invite you back out when we put the basketball courts up outside on the tennis courts.’ I replied, ‘I’m going to hold you to that.’ He then looked down at the books and said, ‘That’s a good-looking photo on the cover.’ I said thanks as he walked away.
With no time to breathe, the first lady was coming close behind. I waited patiently as she greeted the lady next to me (Nina V. Fedoroff, science and technology advisor). Her focus was so polite. She looked each person in their eyes and made you feel special. As her eyes turned to me, I put my hand out and she pulled me in for a big hug.
Again, sometimes we have to just stop and give our fans a hug (actually, I do all the time) but you never know how happy it will make them. I was so happy. I told the first lady that my family loved her too and I presented her with my husband’s book, ‘Women Have All The Power: Too Bad They Don’t Know It.’ I then added, ‘I would love to help you in any way involving giving back to women and children.’ (Once again, I put it in the universe.) The first lady said, ‘I would love for you to join me next week. I will have my assistant come to you.’
Well, I will keep y’all posted on my next White House visit. Until next time, as my baby, Lauren, says every time a man sneezes, ‘God Bless You Obama!’
-- Lisa Leslie (seeking to be Michelle Obama’s New BFF :)
Photo (top): Lisa Leslie and President Obama in the East Room of the White House after the president signed an executive order on Wednesday, creating the White House Council on Women and Girls. Credit: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press
Photo (inset): First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Lisa Leslie. Credit: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press