Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nice To Meet You, Mr. President

So two people snuck into the White House for a formal state dinner? TigerBlog hopes that the Secret Service doesn't take the blame for this, because it's unlikely that it's their fault.

The fact that these two did this shows a great deal about contemporary society. What was the motivation? To get on a reality TV show, of course.

America today is all about celebrity, regardless of what it took to get it. It used to be that celebrity was achieved by actually doing something, usually something requiring at least some degree of talent. Aside from Ed McMahon and Princeton's own Brooke Shields, TigerBlog doesn't remember too many people who were famous simply for being famous.

Today, the woods are full of people who have achieved fame by being on a reality show or any other now-familiar paths. Looking for a good punishment for the two White House crashers? Never allow them on TV again. That'd be perfect for them.

And why can TigerBlog be so sure it wasn't the fault of the Secret Service? Because TB has dealt with that organization twice, and both times he came away fairly certain that nobody who wasn't on the right list with the right ID and with the proper security check was going to be getting anywhere near the President.

TigerBlog has been fortunate enough to shake the hand of two sitting United States Presidents, one of whom he voted for and one of whom he didn't. Regardless of that little fact, it was an honor to be able to meet the President, one TigerBlog owed to Princeton athletes both times.

The first time came in 1996, when Bill Clinton spoke at graduation at Nassau Hall. TigerBlog volunteered that day to work as a coordinator of the national press corps, a job that included taking Wolf Blitzer to the U-Store.

TB was told to be at Chancellor Green at 6 a.m. that day in advance of the visit of the President and the press that follows him. While walking up Washington Road, TB saw a limo speed by and turn onto Prospect, where the door opened to allow a gardener, a student, a businessman, a priest and a jogger to get out. TB assumes they were all Secret Service agents.

TigerBlog was greeted by Secret Service agents at the first security checkpoint, where he was cleared and issued a credential. The checkpoint was inside the buildling; the area between the building and the green at Nassau Hall was considered restricted. During the next six hours or so, not one person who wasn't authorized to cross from Point A to Point B was able to do so. What struck TigerBlog most was how polite the Secret Service agents were to those who tried to get across the path, no matter how belligerent the person became.

Finally, Mr. Clinton arrived, in the middle of a caravan of limos that included sharpshooters in every one. They went along with the sharpshooters who had been positioned on the roofs surrounding the area.

After his speech, Mr. Clinton greeted the women's rugby team and the men's lacrosse team, both of whom had won national championships. TigerBlog was allowed to be part of the lacrosse reception line, and he stood at the end of the group as the President came by and shook everyone's hand. To this day, more than 13 years later, TB always pauses when he goes by that spot in front of Prospect House and thinks "this is where I shook the President's hand."

The second time TB met the President was in 2003, when the women's lacrosse team made its second-straight visit to the White House after winning the NCAA title. Because women's lacrosse contact Tom Milajecki had left for a new job, TB was selected to replace him for the trip to DC.

The Princeton bus that pulled up in front of the White House was searched thoroughly, including by agents who inspected the bottom of the vehicle. Then it was through checkpoints that included pressurized chambers before entering the White House.

Princeton was led upstairs to a waiting area before being brought into the main reception room. During this time, TB was able to get his picture taken under the portrait of Ronald Reagan.

Eventually, a White House staffer came in and told the assembled teams (all spring NCAA champs from that year) how to act when President Bush came into the room. Specifically, the rules said not to reach to him unless he reached to you first.

And then it was time to wait for Mr. Bush to come in through the same entrance as each of the teams, or so everyone thought. Instead, the President came in through a side door, which put him right next to TigerBlog as he walked in. Mr. Bush grabbed TB's hand and said "thanks for coming."

After he made his remarks and greeted one player from each team (TB took a good picture of the President with Sarah Small), the President was off, and each of the teams made their way out. In Princeton's case, it was off to the Capitol for a reception with the two Princeton alums in the Senate - Paul Sarbanes of Maryland and Bill Frist of Tennessee, then the Senate Majority Leader.

As TB looked back at the White House as the bus pulled away, he was struck by that he might never be back, might never have the chance to meet the President again. If not, TB considers himself lucky to have had the opportunity in the first, and second, place.

Looking back on it, TB also thinks that sneaking back into the White House wasn't exactly a good option and wasn't something that would have ended well for him. No matter, though.

TigerBlog isn't in it for the fame.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Speaking in reference to all your posts and not simply this one, I must say, you have an interesting life.