My junior year of college I shook hands with Barack Obama, had a run in with the secret service, and started an eight year White House beef that I’d like to put to rest. Here’s the story of me meeting one of my heroes, and the ridiculousness that ensued.
I was just days shy of my 22nd birthday and getting hair extensions to change my look. 2008. Chinese year of the weave. My roommate, Ashley, was hooking me up when her friends burst into the room with breaking news – presidential candidate Barack Obama was giving an impromptu speech on campus in an hour! I looked at my hair in the mirror.
Half Buckwheat. Half Beyoncé.
There was no way I was leaving the house like this. Surely, Ashley would understand. She didn’t.
“Put a hat on or something,” she said changing into her !Obamanos¡ t-shirt. “I’ll finish when we get back. It’s Barack Obama!”
She had me there. I guess my weave could wait. I bundled up my head and off we went.
There were 100,000 students waiting in line. By some miracle we got in, but we were standing in butt fuck Egypt. Obama approached the podium to thunderous applause. All I could see was a brown dot wearing a suit, and he was hard to hear. Did he say ‘hope and change’ or ‘dope and mange’ ? I loosened my head wrap around my ears. Much better.
There was something revolutionary and magical about this guy, as if Martin Luther King Jr. had made sweet love to a Hawaiian unicorn.
The speech ended. We were all crying, hugging, and Yes We Can-ing when I noticed that Barack Obama was shaking hands with everyone along the edge of the crowd. If I had a tail, I would’ve wagged it. Could I do it? Could I fight through 100,000 people to shake this man’s hand? I was sure as hell going to try, and I had no time to waste.
I yelled, “Shaking hand Obama byeeee!” to my friends and darted through the crowd like an American Ninja Warrior with something to prove. I climbed through legs, red rovered a young couple holding hands, and squeezed through every tiny opening I could find. He was feet away. This was going to happen. Then boom. I slammed into an old woman in a wheelchair.
I’m no monster, I apologized. Still, Obama was headed our way, and I wasn’t close enough. I asked the woman if I could get around her, but she wasn’t listening. I could hear the crowd getting more and more excited. I had seconds before I missed my chance, so I followed my heart. I crawled over the old woman in a wheelchair, apologizing to her stunned face the entire time. But I wasn’t sorry, because I made it happen! Here’s a picture taken right before I shook his hand. The last time that Barack and I were cool.
Then things got awkward.
This is where the Secret Service gets involved in the story, so let me be clear about a few things. Just for the sake of homeland security.
- I had never shaken hands with a presidential candidate before.
- I didn’t know that it’s less of a genuine handshake and more palms touching with a quick clasp.
- It didn’t register to me at all that Obama was tugging his hand away from me. I thought he just had a weird handshake.
- I have no idea how long my piano fingers held him hostage.
“Let go of him!” ordered the Secret Service guy on the right.
Huh? Obama was looking at my like I forgot we wear pink on Wednesdays. I threw my hands up in a ‘don’t shoot’ position. He took his hand back and kept going while the Secret Service gave me side eye. I have no regrets, but it was weird. I’m sure my name is on a list somewhere.
But Barack got his revenge.
Years later I was working at a concert venue where Obama was going to being giving a speech. They did background checks and made us sign stuff. Game on! This time I’d shake his hand for real and casually bring up the whole story. I pictured us bonding over mimosas and scones, laughing about the hilarious misunderstanding. But that didn’t happen.
The day before his speech, we were sent an email asking that only “necessary employees” come into work that day. My name did not make the cut. Unnecessary? Ouch. Well played, Barry.
I guess what I’m saying is that Barack Obama and I have had our classic frenemy moments. We’ve both done things we shouldn’t have and said things we didn’t mean. Still, I’ve got nothing but respect for you President Obama, and I’d like to formally squash our beef. What do you say? Friends? *extends hand*