Covering FLOTUS

Last Thursday afternoon I was at work, writing a story about the San Diego appearance of FLOTUS (First Lady Of The United States). More than one female co-worker approached me wearing a large grin and asking me what it was like to get close to Michelle Obama.

Unfortunately press availability is not something you can expect from FLOTUS, to say nothing of POTUS. Mrs. Obama visited an urban garden in City Heights, a low-income part of San Diego, as part of her campaign against childhood obesity. Beforehand the news media were told 1)The First Lady would take no questions 2)We would need to be there at least an hour and a half before her scheduled speech 3)Our recording or photographic equipment would need to arrive four hours before her scheduled speech.

After I got there, I also learned that reporters and photographers would be confined to what you might call a press corral. This was a roped-off section of the viewing area where we had to remain until FLOTUS stepped into a black SUV and made her escape. It was a day of following Secret Service instructions and standing for a long time in the sun, waiting to hear a speech that was okay but not memorable.

Still, lots of people (Democrats probably) assumed I’d be stoked about seeing Michelle Obama.

I’m not old enough to remember John and Jackie Kennedy, though my parents claim I attended a Kennedy speech wearing diapers. The Kennedy family celebrity must have been similar to the Obama aura. Like the Kennedys, the Obamas are young, charismatic and — most importantly — attractive. The man who introduced Michelle Obama Thursday hit it on the head when he called her a rock star.

The Obamas live in a different country, or course. The Kennedys worked for a public that was more forgiving, more trusting of its leaders and more united, having yet to experience the cultural rifts that would arrive in the late sixties.  Besides, the Kennedys were white and therefore insulated from the strong, complex emotions that race engenders in the USA.

So it was ironic that Jack Kennedy was murdered in Dallas. After showering him with a love that allowed us to ignore his faults and his many extramarital affairs, America took the form of Lee Harvey Oswald and shot him dead. And that is why I was confined to a press corral last Thursday covering FLOTUS.

I did actually get fairly close to Michelle Obama. She walked past our corral as she waved to supporters and headed toward her black SUV. She was accompanied by a white Secret Service agent who wore sun glasses, had a shaven head and looked like he was 6 feet 10 inches tall. Michelle Obama looked pretty and warm-hearted, just like she does on TV.

That’s what I’ll tell people who ask me what it was like to be in the presence of FLOTUS. She looks like she does on television. So if you love Michelle Obama, just keep loving her. And we can still hope the Obamas will become a first family like the Kennedys in the sense that most people seem to like them.

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3 Comments on “Covering FLOTUS”

  1. Greg Duch Says:

    Yes, the United States was a different country when Jack and Jackie were in the White House.

    You might say the United States was a more UNITED States, then.

    Hatred flourished only among hate-filled Americans like the Ku Klux Klan.

    Today, hate is the fuel that powers most American media, it seems.

    When JFK was President, the tune, “Hail to the Chief” still reminded Americans of their common stake in the success of the leadership of the American Presidency, regardless of the political party of the president.

    Afterall, the President was the man who stood between the American people and their nuclear annihilation by the Soviet Union, day after day. His finger was the one on the doomsday button.

    The days of pre-Rush ranting was a time when respect for the office of President trumped petty rhetorical ranting for ratings’ sake.

    And,– The Kennedys were peculiar, in that we all wanted to identify with “Jack and Jackie” on a personal basis. The two of them made it seem natural to refer to them as “Jack and Jackie”; as if we really were on a first-name basis with the two of them; as well as and Caroline and John-John.

    When Jack said, “Ich bin ein Beerleener”, at the Berlin Wall, we all cheered too, as we realized what a blessed and powerful nation we were, in an otherwise dangerous and crazy world.

    was merely a perception. But what a grand and exciting and dynamic perception we reveled in for those one-thousand days!

    When we lost respect and national honor for the Office of the Presidency; we looked elsewhere for our national icons and cherished heroes.

    We discovered a new breed of hero and heroine. Personages like Madonna, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson were placed up on altars of national adoration

    We follow them 24/7, whether dead or alive. The more scandalous the behavior the more we devour our diet of media mud and vile villification.

    We have lost much since the Kennedy presidency, call it human compassion.

  2. Greg Duch Says:

    Over the years, I have had the opportunity to be in the “right” place at the “right” time, enabling myself to get quite close and personal with several members of the Kennedy Camelot generation.

    All, but 1. Ethel, Bobby’s widow; 2. Sargent Shriver, 1st head of the Peace Corps (and Maria Shriver’s father); 3.Jean Kennedy Smith, (last full-fledged surviving sibling of JFK, RFK, etc.) and 4.Joan Kennedy, (divorced wife, but mother of Ted Kennedy’s three kids) ARE still above ground.

    Ted’s second wife, Vicky, doesn’t count as a member of Camelot. She was younger than I when JFK was inaugurated.

    I saw Bobby at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC in 1964, when he was running for senator from NY State. He created pandemonium and seemed to enjoy every moment of it, pressing the flesh of the uncontrolled crowds on Fifth Avenue.

    Ted Kennedy, Ethel Kennedy, the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and her husband, Sarge; as well as Pat Kennedy Lawford (also dead)- and Jean Kennedy Smith were crowded in one location one saturday in 1978 in Brockport, NY, at the State College Campus there.

    The event taking place was the “SPECIAL OLYMPICS”. That was the pride and joy of Eunice Shriver. She got the entire Kennedy clan to create, support, and become directly involved in the S.O. games. Eunice (Maria’s mother) was a tornado of sheer energy, wherever her path roared past.

    My impression of all of the Kennedys—with the major exception of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, is that mingling with crowds was part of the family DNA. They were all compulsive crowd pleasers. Boston politicians don’t shy from crowds, especially if your name were Kennedy. Ole Papa Joe kennedy wouldn’t allow it.

    That characteristic might fairly be considered to have played a part in the murders of JFK and RFK.

    I cherish the memory of that Saturday on the campus of the State University of NY at Brockport at the Special Olympics. Got to see four of the Kennedy siblings,(Ted, Eunice, Pat, Jean) as well as two in-laws (Sargent Shriver, Ethel Kennedy)in one encounter.

    They were bigger than life. They stood for what they believed in; and believed in what they stood for.

    Off-topic, I know that several folks in Midge Costanza’s hometown of Rochester, NY mourn her death.

    Stay well.

    Greg Duch

  3. Jim Fudge Says:

    Can’t remember if you wore diapers, Tom (you probably did at that time). You were three and Jim approaching five when Mom and you two young guys sat high in the UND Fieldhouse where JFK gave his talk on agriculture. I was on the floor with my Varsity Bards Male Chorus where we sang all of our repertoire and started all over again during our 3 hour wait for the President. Good blog again, and lets hope this present young man stays healthy. Like Kennedy, he’s bright!


    P.S., Three months later he was gone. Sad.

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