President Project members meet with First Lady Michelle Obama

Zoe Schaver

A familiar anticipation preceded the President Project’s Facebook announcement Thursday night, scheduled for 8:30 p.m. At 8 p.m., the post was up:

[quote]“We would like to announce that we have spoken with the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and that we are now in contact with the First Lady’s Deputy Chief of Staff and the Special Assistant to the President.”[/quote]

That afternoon at 3 p.m., senior President Project members Parker Bowling, Jake Sims, Matt Garofalo, and Michael Perry had arrived at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, where Secret Service men waited to check them through security. Also in attendance were Gov. Steve Beshear, Rep. John Yarmuth, and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, as well as some community supporters who had received invitations.

The four President Project members had been given tickets by Mayor Fischer, who had sent the invitation to the White House. “It’s a huge honor. There are so many other people he could have given the tickets to, and he picked us, our project,” Bowling said.

Each attendee at the event was permitted to pose for photos with the First Lady. Julian Wright (11), part of a group of high school students from across the city fundraising for the Obama campaign, sang Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” to Ms. Obama, the same song her husband had performed a month prior. Kyndl Woodlee (12) high-fived her.

“It was amazing to be in the presence of someone who was so charismatic, warm, kind, and welcoming,” Garofalo said. “When she was in the room, she owned the space. She made everybody feel relaxed and part of her family.”

Following a series of group photos, Bowling, Sims, Garofalo, and Perry got a special chance to speak in person with Ms. Obama, who called over Deputy Chief of Staff and the Special Assistant to the President Nancy-Ann DeParle. According to Garofalo, the conversation only lasted four or five minutes, but the First Lady seemed deeply interested in their efforts.

“We had to make a quick little pitch before Secret Service told us to move on. She looked like she was really interested in talking about the school doing so much to get her husband here,” Garofalo said. “The fact that education is so big for the Obama family and the campaign right now means this is something that could really help our campaign.”

“We’re still figuring out exactly where we want to take this—we’re going to explore it to its fullest potential,” Bowling said. “But now we’ve got the ear of the President, and that’s a pretty close link.”

Garofalo is glad the project has made it as far as it has, after much work and dedication. “I think this is major milestone, because we actually got to talk to a member of the Obama family,” Garofalo said. “We’re closer than we could’ve ever imagined. Talking to [Pres. Obama’s] wife, getting her on our side, that’s invaluable.”

Members of the project will likely be informed whether or not President Obama will be delivering the Class of 2012’s commencement address by mid- to late April or early May, several weeks prior to the commencement ceremony.