March 21st, 2011


One of the many privileges of being associated with the U.S. missions abroad is the opportunity to be part of a Presidential visit. When the POTUS (President of the U.S.) and FLOTUS (First Lady of the U.S.) come to visit there are incredible behind the scenes efforts to ensure that the visit runs smoothly. White House personnel work closely with embassy/consulate personnel to book hotel rooms, arrange for transportation, meals and local meetings/visits, and attend to all manner of details to ensure that the POTUS and his staff can accomplish the purpose of the visit.

Rio de Janeiro was fortunate to be one of the stops on the President’s most recent visit to South America and the consulate here was caught up in the effort before and throughout the visit. I even had the chance to volunteer and was fortunate to work with a great team and meet many of the Washington staffers and official visitors. The work for the consulate staff was arduous – poor Richard pulled at least one all-nighter on luggage duty.

In the end though, the visit went well and I got one of the lucky passes to go to the Presidential meet-and- great. So here it is…..

After going through extensive security we waited at a local soccer team facility where the official helicopters were staged to take the President to Air Force One. Marine One – a very, very big and loud military helicopter – landed in front of us with blades that created one heck of a wind!

The motorcade arrived and our crowd of consular staff and families was energized….

The President emerged….

And for the next 5 minutes, he and the First Lady graciously shook hands with the crowd and made the whole effort very much worthwhile.

When my turn came I obviously stopped my non-stop camera clicking and had the pleasure of the handshake and smile. President Obama really takes the time with this and did not look remotely rushed or disinterested even though he must do this so much.

Michelle Obama too was delightfully gracious and particularly attentive to the many children in the crowd.

The picture that everyone wants is the picture with the President. This was the best I could get…..

However, after going to press with the first version of this post I was able to get some additional pics taken by another consular officer (thanks Dave!). In this series the President stopped in front of Gustavus, the boy standing to my right, who had a book with him entitled "Who is Obama?". The President asked what he had, Gustavus showed him...

and, after saying "Well, I don't know!" (in response to the book title). The President pulled out his pen to autograph the book...

According to his mother, the autograph said "Dream Big Dreams"

What a memory both Gustavus and his mother will have forever!

The rope line was finished and the first couple was off on their journey to next stop in Santiago.

And off they went. Sadly, the weather was not being friendly so they missed the great aerial views that Rio provides on a good day.

Now life returns to normal but we do have souvenirs. Richard was able to get us some official Air Force One M&M candy packages and matches. We will eat the candy but I may save the matches as part of a great memory!