So I met the President last week.
As I see it, there are three kinds of people in this world: people who like the President and want to know what meeting him was like, people who dislike the President and want to know what meeting him was like, and people who dislike the President and therefore don’t want to know what meeting him was like.
It’s the third type of person that actually made it possible for me to get to meet him, since I attended a reception basically thanking people who helped the President’s Affordable Care Act enroll 8 million people in health care programs who previously had none–especially those of us who got flack from our fans for doing so. So third type of person: I get you, I get it, and thanks!
I know not everyone agrees with me or the ACA or the President or Democrats or democracy. I’m sorry if any of this offends people, I truly am. I’m just a celebrity, though. I’m not a politician. I am entitled to my opinions based on my family history, my education, and my rights as an American citizen to have my own beliefs. I’ve said before that I am a bleeding heart liberal with socially conservative leanings. I’ve got to be me, and here I am.
Here are some things that happened in my trip to the White House to meet the President. I can’t share everything. I can’t share many pictures. I can’t share a lot of the most truly amazing things that happened. But I hope you enjoy these tidbits which have been approved by the powers that be for me to share!
In no particular order:
1. Women’s Issues. There are designated breastfeeding areas in the White House for employees or visitors. Amazing, right? One of my favorite Mary Cassatt paintings, “Young Mother and Two Children,” hung near one of the bathrooms I used.
While there are a lot of men working in and around the White House, there are tons of women. I saw women of all ages, colors, and, based on head coverings, religious backgrounds working there. I took this picture of me to show my love for women in the White House, so to speak.
2. History. There are layers and layers of historical artifacts all over the White House, obviously. Stories about every painting, lamp, urn, and carpet abound. For each item, there is a handful of myth and a great dose of mystery, and I love all of that. The White House doesn’t look like a palace, it feels like a home that has a lot of history and museum-quality furniture and tchotchkes. Considering how young this country is, there is still something incredible about hundreds of years of concentrated democratic process with all of the things left in its wake all around you. Here’s a pretty chair.
3. Location. I got to see select parts of the East Wing and the West Wing and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. There may by a bowling alley in the basement of one of the buildings that I may have bowled in. Or this picture could be me just bowling at a Washington, DC bowling alley. Who can say?
4. The First Couple. So yeah…the public people who came were not many and it wasn’t like I was hangin’ with Beyonce, but we did meet the President and First Lady! Each of us, one at a time, up close and pretty darn personal. In my two and a half minute encounter, there were multiple hand shakes. The First Lady teased me for calling her husband “Sir” about a dozen times in two minutes. Then she hugged me and laughed. They looked me square in the eye and work extremely hard to show how much they want to be accessible and how much they want to be super amazing, in my opinion. They knew that I’m not just a scientist on TV. They thanked me for everything I do for education and he specifically thanked me for what I did to support the ACA. I told him it was an honor to do that for him. I meant it. Also, he’s super handsome. Just sayin’.
5. Tears. After my photo was taken with the First Couple, I left the room to wait for everyone else to meet them and I sat down and fought back tears. A guard noticed and one said, “If you had any other reaction, I’d be disappointed.” Meaning: it is that overwhelming to meet the President of the United States. Politics aside–please, just for a second, put them aside–it’s bizarre and surreal to meet the person who is the President of the United States. It’s crazy pants bizarre. And so special.
I don’t feel I deserved to be there. I’ll talk to my therapist about why that is, but I couldn’t stop thinking about where I came from. Specifically, where my grandparents came from. Shtetls, friends. Tiny war-torn villages. Pogroms, my family and millions of families literally torn apart at the seams. A culture decimated by the Nazi Regime, a language almost lost, a cohesive community set ablaze in furnaces all over Poland. Most of everyone’s families whose families came from Europe were killed or left to die in the graveyards and fields and death camps and countries that didn’t want them. That’s my story.
My family came to America where they were told the streets were paved with gold. My mom’s parents worked in sweatshops and on assembly lines barely mastering the English language, living amongst Yiddish speakers their entire lives in American versions of the shtetl, bound to their stories and their hopes for their children in this new strange country. My dad’s parents were more “Americanized” but they also lived immigrant’s lives to a large extent, but with cars and a house on Long Island as the setting. But I come from poor immigrants. That’s my story.
I wish my grandparents could have met the President. I wish they could have seen all of the things I got to see. I’m just an overpaid sitcom actor!
The day I got back, I was back to staring at loads upon loads of small people’s laundry, making dinner out of a bare fridge and half-stocked pantry (I so need to go to the market), and being barked at to “Bring me water!” and “Help me wipe!” No rest for the mama, you know how it is.
I told my sons that I wore necklaces with their birthstones when I went to the White House (yes, my Elephant Heart necklace makes me feel like my boys are with me everywhere I go!). They seemed impressed that I had met the President of the United States in the White House for about six seconds.
Then I was asked a most important question: when their day is planned with their dad for Disneyland this week. And also, “Can we have a snack?”
Because, you know: priorities.