Sunday, May 22, 2022

Meeting President Biden and Second Gentleman Emhoff

Normally when there is a major visit by a U.S. official to a foreign country, almost everyone at the U.S. embassy in the country pitches in by working directly on the visit or covering for their colleagues' normal duties while they work on the visit. Because I am on maternity leave right now, I got to enjoy some of the fun parts of two recent visits without stressing about the extensive work behind the scenes I would normally be involved in if I weren't out of the office.

I was fortunate enough to attend two events called meet and greets, which are exactly what they sound like: an opportunity to meet a high-level visitor. If there is space in the schedule, visitors will often do meet and greets with employees and their families serving overseas, including military service members and diplomats. Since M wasn't particularly interested, he stayed at home with baby S while I attended both meet and greets: one with Second Gentleman (i.e., the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris) Doug Emhoff and one with President Joe Biden.

The Second Gentleman was very down-to-earth and kind to everyone regardless of rank. He answered one of my questions and shook my hand, but I ended up kicking myself later for failing to request a photo with him. I would've liked that memento of the event, but I'm glad I went anyway and got to hear from him. It was also a nice opportunity to catch up with friends and coworkers I haven't seen while I've been on maternity leave.

The President of the United States (POTUS) had a much larger meet and greet, and as someone with a newborn at home I was grateful the event was outside while the COVID-19 pandemic continues. I scoped out a spot close to the front early and had a great view of the President's speech. He apparently loves children and spent quite a bit of time with Embassy employees' kids, taking photos and talking to them.

I was hoping to get a photo with him, but unfortunately I was unlucky and just a few people took up all the time he had in my section, with one even shoving me out of the way. I thought about trying to press my way to the front, but after getting pushed around a bit I decided I was not willing to fight people for just the possibility of a photo.

Oh, well, even if I didn't get a photo with either the Second Gentleman or the President at least I got to be a part of the events. It was fun to experience an official visit that way without having to organize or support any of the events myself. Next time, I'll make sure to strategize better and leave with a photo!

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