|Senator Obama in 2008|
It has been an extraordinary 10 days, 10 days I wish would never end. Everything went right, everything fell into place. My son’s wish to meet the President through the Make-A-Wish Foundation had come through. It seemed so unreal the fact that next week, we were headed to the White House for a private meeting with President Barack Obama.
My busy week began getting in the way of the fleeting moments I had day dreaming about meeting the President, dreaming of being in his presence and the conversation I was going to have with him. With only three days until we were to leave, I began to realize that I had to leave my to-do list behind, and to really be in the present moment. After all, it was for only three more days that I could say, “I have an appointment with the President.”
I wanted the days to go slowly, to delay the gratification of meeting someone who has truly had an impact on my life, with his inspiring words of hope, with his powerful speeches, and the way he conducts himself during interviews, his non reactive answers, his calmness, his friendliness, his intelligence.
How does one prepare to meet President Barack Obama?
I began looking over the piles of transcripts of his speeches I had kept from his presidency campaign three years ago, marked up by a scattering of my yellow highlighter across the pages. It was his message of hope, hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of adversity, choosing hope over fear, that inspired me the most. It was hope he had given me as a mother on my journey with my son suffering from Duchenne.
I identified with his message, ours being the generation that stood for change, compassion for each other, marching straight forward with courage and purpose. It was a powerful message.
I went up to the bookstore with my daughter to buy a new copy of Dreams of My Father, that I would ask him to sign. When I read his book sometime ago, I saw parallels with my own life. Like myself, Obama had a mixed heritage, and had also experienced living in different countries. Whilst he spent his childhood in Indonesia, I spent mine in neighboring Malaysia, just across the water. Obama also had a pet ape when he was a child and so did I.
Like myself, when he was younger, Obama also experienced confusion in identifying with a race or culture, which is often the case with children from multi-racial parents.
I pondered over questions I would ask him, and advice I would seek.
As I self reflected, I thought about my three children, the impact this visit will have on their lives. I thought about my son, whose wish it was. I thought about the moment the President would reach out to shake my son’s hand, only to realize that my son is too weak to lift it. At that moment I know there will be a connection. We will connect on a personal level with the President, as a parent, as a father, as a brother.
This is a private visit but in a way it is also official. My son is meeting the President, not only as a fun 18-year-old who loves science and computers, but also as an ambassador for Duchenne.
The President will know all about the seriousness and the devastation of Duchenne, and this may make a difference.