Week Five: The Big Day Has Arrived!

So let me break this down by day:

Saturday: All 500 fellows have arrived at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in D.C. from 9:00AM-nearly 11:00PM.  As part of their “registration”, they received their credentials, business cards, information/programs on the weeks activities, taxback information, room keys/assignments, departure dates/times, as well as misc. info that was fellow-specific.  The day would have gone nice and smooth, had the hotel followed the contract and had our 250 double rooms prepared by 3:00PM.  Instead, a handful of us had the pleasure of working until 2:00 AM (after starting at 6:00AM set-up) so that we could make sure every fellow had their own bed in a room and had located their luggage.  This issue did carry over into the next day, no matter how hard we fought.  But, hotel management was as helpful as they could be in accommodating those who were without a room for the majority of the evening, and even those of us who were working so late to help sort out the issues.

Sunday: MY. BIG. DAY.  Another early start as many preparations needed to be made before our Smithsonian Welcoming Reception that was going on that evening.  While the fellows were doing tours of the city (or catching up on some much needed rest) all hands were on deck to prepare not only for our evening reception, but also POTUS on Monday morning.  Once 5:00PM rolled around, the Smithsonian team headed off to the Museum of American History to begin set-up and 7:00 came quickly.  The museum was stunning for the evening, and everyone in attendance enjoyed the event.  Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, as well as Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, spoke that evening.  At the end of the night, we had roughly 800-900 who attended the reception, including several African Ambassadors, members of the White House and State Department, and Congressmen, women, and Senators.  


Monday:  How cool is your internship when you get to hear the President of the United States speak, only 50 feet away from you?  Pretty cool if you ask me.  Starting at 6:00AM, the President’s Advance Team swept the area.  The hotel was buzzing with excited fellows waiting in line to get prime seating, as well as our extended list of observers.  Unfortunately, I missed Secretary of State, John Kerry, speaking due to other responsibilities, but in that time, I was able to greet several members of Congress and Senate, as well as Ambassadors.  This resulted in some interesting conversations, especially with Senator Chris Coons.  Once I had finished my greeting duties,  was able to be a part of the select few employees that could go into the President’s Town Hall.  Being that it was a Town Hall, after President Obama’s initial remarks, the rest of the time was spent on Q&A. Nothing rehearsed. No questions previously chosen.  Every thing asked and responded was on-the-spot.  And our fellows did not hold back from asking the President tough questions regarding acknowledgment of the smaller African nations, not just the “well-known” ones, and even issues regarding nationwide healthcare/opportunities.  He handled every question well, not dodging the bullet.  Later on in the day, we also held our United States Government Expo, were several government agencies had the opportunity to set up booths and speak with the fellows regarding future career opportunities and interests.  We also had our “Lightning Talk” Sessions where a panel of selected fellows presented in 4 different rooms on the things that they had learned in their training over the summer and how they can take it back to their own countries to promote growth and development.


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