[David Kramer 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, and At a seat from the President’s table five 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.
THE FULL SERIES