Every American citizen, or citizen to be, should plan a visit to the White House. It is a validation and reminder of our core values as a country.
Recently, I had the special opportunity for the first time to secure an invitation for a brief tour of the East Wing of the White House.
Given the occasion and our upbringing, we got dressed in business casual attire for our visit. To our dismay, we were disappointed at some, especially kids, who chose to wear flip-flops and T-shirts. I guess it must have been the summer weather.
While waiting to be screened through Secret Service and National Park Service security, I was amazed at the throngs of people who gathered at both ends of the White House perimeter fence. Some protested on issues of personal concern (e.g. Iran, abortion, economy). Others paused for memorial photos. Others simply stood and gazed silently in meditation at the imposing edifice.
The White House definitely speaks. It is simply a regular home and office magnified by the weight of history and the values of a country. It is a national museum of epic emotions. Occasionally, we view continuous televised images of press conferences, diplomatic meetings, and the like at the White House and fail to remember that all happens in real time and with real people who all share similar human qualities or emotions. It is not a fantasy land. At the White House, real work is being done. And in any home or office, real people find successes, solace, or challenges.
As we entered the hallways of the East Wing, we could not help feeling a sense of humility. We touched the walls and columns. History paused. The presidential portraits whispered from the period of their tenure. Again, history paused. With each room passed, you had to close your eyes to capture the moment. No cameras allowed.
Today, a family and an administration endeavor to make their mark in the best interests of a country and its citizens in the peoples’ house.
Despite our casual tour, the home and office were bustling with activity. White House staff hustled in and out effortlessly as if we were part of the canvass on the walls. Secret Service agents, black and white, stood guard conspicuously, and extended a word of courtesy at the urging of any questions. At every step, groups of eager citizens whispered inquisitively: “Is President Obama in the building?” Someone whispered affirmatively: “Yes!” This provided for more fodder as the tour progressed. It is not fantasy land. It is just another home and office.
As we exited, ABC TV crews hurried to complete the set for a healthcare town hall meeting. The home and office transformed into another purpose for serving us. Later, the White House Public Engagement staff provided a briefing on a myriad of issues, including, healthcare, immigration, energy, international trade and foreign policy. They are real people juggling real issues.
With all the work being done in the White House, we are ultimately responsible for ensuring that our needs and challenges are met. The visit reaffirmed and reasserted the fact that WE THE PEOPLE built the White House and decided on the occupant. This is the fundamental truth. It is self-evident. It is our history. It is Our House. It is not fantasy land.
Marlon A. Hill, Esq. is a partner with the law firm of delancyhill, P.A. and a past president of the Caribbean Bar Association. He is also host of "D' Peoples' Politics, every Saturday at 4 p.m. on Caribbean Riddims, WZAB 880AM.