An Afternoon at the White House

An Afternoon at the White House

I can finally say I've experienced the highlight of my time in Washington so far.

I was able to spend a few hours at the White House where I got a closer look at the White House Briefing Room and watched President Obama leave on a trip to New York in his helicopter.

I'll start with the Briefing Room. It's located in the West Wing of the White House and used to be the White House's original swimming pool. It was built for FDR with money raised by school children because swimming was a sport the polio-inflicted President could participate in. My tour guide, CBS News Senior White House Correspondent, Bill Plante, explained that Richard Nixon had a press room put over the pool to put some distance between him and reporters. The original room was nothing more than a lounge with old furniture where the media would gather around and ask the President and his spokespeople questions. Eventually, it became more professional looking and now sports theater-style seating, carpet and a plasma TV.

Behind the podium in the White House Briefing Room

After myself and another CBS intern finished our lunches, we went over to Bill's office, the CBS White House Booth. It's a closet-like space no more than nine or ten feet deep and four, maybe five feet wide. The three CBS White House correspondents, Bill, Major Garrett and Mark Knoller have their workspaces all close together along one desk. There's also a tracking booth in the back where the correspondents can record their voiceovers.

Soon, it was time to make our way to the South Lawn to watch the President take off for Brooklyn. He was going to a technical high school there to discuss investing in America's education system. We were grouped together with the rest of the press corp. and brought through the Rose Garden onto a path on the edge of the South Lawn. Bill warned us we made need to turn away when Marine One got closer because of the wind it creates.

 


Marine One on final approach to the White House South Lawn.

 

He was right. I hadn't been blown around that much since I went out for a few minutes in Hurricane Sandy last Fall. After the wind ceased and the dead leaves stopped blowing in our faces, the President came out of the Oval Office. In a calm and composed way, he walked out the door, over to Marine One, waving once and while at all the snapping cameras documenting every step he made. Then, just like that, it was over. The wind started again and the huge helicopter hovered off the ground, turned and launched into the air over the National Mall.

President Obama walking towards the South Lawn from the Oval Office.

 


The closest I've been to President Obama.

 

But the excitement didn't stop there. After we went back inside, we made our way down a flight of stairs behind the podium where White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, gives the daily press briefing. It led to a room filled with electronics. We were in the old swimming pool! All along the tile pool walls visitors and journalists alike had all signed their names sometimes adding dates and little phrases. I added mine under the stairs in red sharpie. Now I can say that I left at least a little piece of me at the White House.

My signature on the old White House pool wall beneath the Briefing Room

It's going to be hard to top this trip, but we'll see what happens in the weeks ahead!

Cheers,

Dustin

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