A seat at the President’s table four years later

A seat at the President’s table four years later

Enjoying the Obama Special. Soup and Grilled Cheese sandwich. Photo: Kevin Huggins, Magnolia’s staff. Photos on the wall are of the visit. 8/21/17

In keeping with our Presidential Visits series (BELOW), on August 22nd, 2013, President Barack Obama had lunch at Magnolia’s on Park Avenue. In A seat at the President’s table three years later and At a seat from the President’s table two years later, we looked back at the visit.

This year we have the pleasure of a reflection from a woman who was there, Evalyn Gleason.  You met Evalyn in Getting to know Evalyn Gleason; An Accomplished Philanthropist Working From The Heart

In August of 2013 I was a young, fresh college graduate from the University of Rochester with little direction of what I was looking to do in life. I knew only one thing for sure and that was that I wanted to help people. As a Political Science major I was drawn to policy reform, particularly in the education system. So when presented with the opportunity to sit on a panel to discuss the cost of college, I immediately said yes. Little did I know that that would sweep me up into one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

The morning of August 21 2013 I learned that the panel discussion was, in fact, to be a lunch discussing education with the President of the United States. I still remember every detail of the phone call and the incredible 24 hours that was to follow.

Four years on and there are so many reflections that I have about that day and that lunch, especially given our current political climate. I still can’t believe that four years ago I sat across the table from President Obama suggesting what he should order from Magnolia’s Restaurant on Park Ave. I remember being absolutely terrified of meeting him and shaking as his tour bus pulled up to the restaurant. But the moment he shook my hand and introduced himself, that all melted away.
One of the most striking things that I remember from that day is how much he seemed to enjoy himself. He was and is truly just a man that wanted to make this country a better place. It was pretty clear to see that one of his favorite things was getting out and meeting people and hearing their stories. He took the time to shake hands and even poke fun at the little boy that was throwing himself around the floor as his mortified mother was trying to entertain him. He truly wanted to be at that table talking and listening to us. Hearing about our college experiences, what our visions were for the future and what our dreams of success were. He encouraged us, listened, offered advice and I think truly walked away with things to think about. It was clear that this was not a publicity stunt, but a way for the President to take time out of his schedule to connect with the everyday Americans that he represented.

I’ve been reflecting on this experience a lot recently as I watch current events unfold. It still seems surreal that I was afforded this opportunity and how it put me on the trajectory that I am on. That day garnered immense respect for President Obama and how taxing the job of President is. I am so thankful to President Obama for taking that time to share with me any everyone else at that table and I doubt he will ever know what an impact it has made on my dreams. I will always be grateful to have had a seat at the President’s table and will forever look back on that experience fondly and in awe.

Evalyn Gleason

First, ROYALTY ON THE RIVER: A KING (and maybe a second king, and even an emperor) COME TO ROCHESTER

Then, when a Frenchman was in Rochester and a plaque for Lafayette.

In When President John Quincy Adams visited Rochester on July 27th and 28th, 1843 and toured Mt. Hope Cemetery, the grave of Nathaniel lincolnRochester.

In On Abraham Lincoln in Rochester from Michael Nighan, a plaque and a train station.

occupyIn Memorial Day, 1892, when President Benjamin Harrison dedicated the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument in Washington Square Park with Frederick Douglass. And Occupy Rochester, Benjamin Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass in the same park Occupy would occupy.

In October, 26th, 1898: the Rough Rider on his way to the Governor’s mansion. TR Comes to Town, again…and again…and again… by Michael Nighan., a statue of Teddy in School 29.

In When Taft spoke at Convention Hall on August 23rd, 1911, it wasWilliam Howard Taft.

In BIG BILL, BIG BELL AND SCHOOL BELLS: An ex-president, the Liberty Bell, and several thousand school teachers come to town. it was more William Howard Taft.


In FDR’s first visit to Rochester as a national candidate, September 23rd, 1920. And the League of Nations., Rachel in Washington Square Park.

In October 21st, 1920 in Rochester and Governor Harding’s return to normalcy. And the school named after him., a school in North Gates.harding-school-newest

In Governor Roosevelt’s triumphant return to the Convention Hall, October 18th, 1932, a luncheon with Eleanor Roosevelt.

In FDR in Rochester en route to a New Deal landslide, October 17th, 1936, an unfinished portrait.

In When President Truman campaigned in Rochester en route to his upset win over NY Governor Thomas Dewey, a thruway sign.outside-school

In October 23rd and 24th, 1952 when Ike and Adlai were in town back to back. And School 29., the Adlai E. Stevenson School.

In 56 years ago when JFK spoke at the War Memorial. Two days after his debate with Nixon. Nine days after RFK was here., the War Memorial.

In LBJ and RFK in Rochester, October 15th,1964, LBJ and RFK at the airport.

In November 3rd, 1964: When Rochester’s Senator Keating lost to RFK in the wake of LBJ’s landslide. a Federal building.

In 45 years ago when President Nixon visited Rochester. And 3 days later when East High School erupted in racial violence a media briefing at the Landmark Hotel in Pittsford.running-for-prz

In When Carter stumped Rochester in ’76. And Howard the Duck. it was Howard for Prez.

In October 31st, 1976: Gerald Ford two days before the unelected president’s comeback falls just short., a Playboy

In October 29th, 1980: Carter at a rally six days before the Reagan revolution. And when Bernie Sanders campaigned for Barry Commoner, the Citizen’s Party.

In November 1st, 1984: Ronald Reagan five days before his 49 state landslide. And Jesse Jackson at MCC. And a liberal enclave. it was two rallies.

with BrIAN cropped

In 27 years ago today when President George H. W. Bush visited Wilson Magnet High School, a signed chalkboard.

In 11 years ago when President Bush met J-Mac. And the judgment of history., J-Mac.

In 5 Meliora Weekends ago when President Clinton spoke., Great Books with President Seligman.

In On October 19th, 2012 when Bill Clinton campaigned for Louise Slaughter. And a Socialist at the public market, Peta Lyndsay.

with-billIn A seat at the President’s table three years later, soup and a grilled cheese sandwich at Magnolia’s.

In Next stop Albany. On the road with the Trumprenuers, the Trumprenuers at the airport.

In Memories of presidential visits on Election Day in Brighton, a vote for Talker.


Getting to know Evalyn Gleason; An Accomplished Philanthropist Working From The Heart

A seat at the President’s table three years later

At a seat from the President’s table two years later

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY and Lake Affect Magazine.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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