Cool air hit my face. Cameras began flashing. People began cheering and clapping. I looked around for the celebrity that just had to be close by. There weren’t any.
The crowd was cheering for me! (I guess Phillip and Crystal, too.)
Saturday night, April 26, was more than I could have ever expected. A whole world of politicians and Hollywood and media folk getting along, and even joking around. Who would have thought it? I’d heard of the White House Correspondents Association awards dinner, but hearing and seeing are polar opposites.
We met the Bushes. President George and First Lady Laura. We met the Cheneys. We met Katie Couric. We met Condoleezza Rice… three times. We met Craig Ferguson. And, outside of the spotlight, these high- powered figures are everyday people. Condoleeza Rice hasn’t owned a camera in 10 years, but she managed to figure out the contraption to take a picture of our crew with Katie Couric.
I am far from the young journalist who is scared or meek when it comes to meeting and speaking to big-named people. I’ve interviewed these people since high school (when I actually interviewed Daddy Bush). But, to be able to see these people in an informal setting, all gloves off, was amazing.
I hadn’t expected them to totally discount us because we weren’t known across the world. But, I was pleasantly taken aback that they were so kind and interested in speaking to us. The Cheneys actually asked us what was next when they weren’t sure if we should stand in the reception room or move to the banquet room. As a journalist, it’s important to realize that these people that we see daily on the television or in the newspaper are not always all business.
That goes for Bush’s speech as well. He was funny and entertaining. He was laid back. He made jokes about himself, and, of course, took some potshots at the presidential candidates who didn’t make appearances at this dinner of the year. He even conducted the band (with a good amount of flair).
One of the main highlights of the night was the unofficial meet- and- greet during dessert. Whoever decided to put the names, tables, and a table chart in the program was either a genius or a chaos-maker. I would like to thank that person. It not only made it easier to find the likes of Ben Affleck and Ashley Simpson, but it also directed me to the tables where some media professionals were and right into the sights of a news service I’d like to hire me.
Lesson: Network wherever you are. Don’t be afraid to speak to anyone. You never know.
I put that lesson to work, and quite possibly could have found a possible job out of the country upon graduation. My fingers are crossed on that possible internship, but either way I confirmed my previous thoughts on this lesson.
This was probably the greatest night of my journalism life. To be in such a powerful room with the best in my field and the best in other professions was surreal. It’s a night that I will always remember, and I will aim to be sitting in that same room upon graduation. Maybe I could be the next Helen Thomas. I think I’d go with, “Gracias, Mr. President.”