November 06, 2009

Washington DC '09 trip (Day 3)

Concluding the report begun in Washington DC '09 trip (Day 1) and Washington DC '09 trip (Day 2):

I tried to sleep Wednesday night, but I started practicing my presentation in my mind and couldn't stop. I figured I might as well practice it for real, so I got up and did so. I'd slept only about four hours since Saturday night, and it seemed another sleepless day was in store.

Richard Regan came to escort me to the Dept. of Agriculture. We connected my laptop to a projector, I had a couple bagels, and people began trickling into the auditorium.

The audience eventually reached about 150 people. Introductions were made and I gave my presentation. It went pretty well; I didn't forget or stumble over anything important. Several people came up afterward and said it was good.

We had lunch and then waited in a conference for anyone who had questions or comments. No one came and I almost dozed off waiting. Then I took the Metro back to the hotel to drop off my laptop and took it again across the Mall.

Getting into the summit

I walked from the Woodrow Wilson Plaza to the Department. of the Interior on C St. About a dozen people were praying--not protesting, they said--for Leonard Peltier in front of the building. Then they started beating a drum and unfurled a "Free Leonard" sign, which made their prayer hard to distinguish from a protest.

The politicians and tribal leaders were inside the building, while Secret Service and police personnel were outside. On Monday I had e-mailed my personal info to the White House press office to get a credential. I went up to a table and asked for my credential.

Oops, first problem. The young woman said press registration had been 8-9 am and 1-2 pm. It was now about 3 pm. I said, "What registration"? I answered the e-mail that said I'd get a credential if I sent my info. She said the registration info was in a followup e-mail they sent while I was flying to Washington. I hadn't bothered to check my e-mail because 1) I was too busy; 2) the e-mail I'd answered hadn't said anything about additional steps such as registration.

Here's a clue to clear communications, people. Don't send a series of e-mails in which you have to answer each one to find out what the next step is. Put all the instructions in the first message and each subsequent message. That way, no one will be lost if they inadvertently miss a message.

I pleaded my case to a young man named Josh. He didn't think he could do anything but said he'd try. About 45 minutes later he came back and said I was in. He had called his boss in the Secret Service who'd left the scene, and the guy apparently returned to handle my case.

Seeing the summit

I went up to the balcony where I heard the last 45 minutes or so of tribal leaders speaking to Cabinet members about health, education, and welfare issues. With my complete lack of sleep, I almost dozed off again. Not exactly compelling stuff.

An aide appeared and called all the photographers who hadn't been there in the morning. This didn't sound good, but it turned out to be great. He took three of us close to the stage so we could take pictures of Obama when he arrived.

Obama took the podium and I snapped my pix from some 50 feet away. He cut his closing remarks short to address the Ft. Hood situation--apparently his first public remarks on the tragedy. Then he left and the summit was over. (No closing speeches or ceremonies, which was a relief.)

I accompanied journalist Lise King to a reception held by Kilpatrick Stockton LLC, a law firm. We passed the front gate of the White House--the famous 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.--on the way there. The reception was your typical cocktail chitchat, so I left for the Metro and my hotel.

With the anticipation and pressure finally over, I was able to sleep 6-7 hours. In the morning I took the Metro to the airport, sat motionless in a middle plane seat for five hours, and eventually made it home. And that was my trip to the NCAI, NMAI, USDA, and tribal summit.

For more on the subject, see Speaking on Stereotypes at the Capital.


dmarks said...

Is that your picture of President Obama, in the post below?

Anonymous said...

Dear Author !
I confirm. And I have faced it. We can communicate on this theme.

Rob said...

No, it isn't my picture. It was taken at the same time I was taking my pictures by a friend who was farther away but had a telephoto lens. So it basically represents my experience as well as hers. ;-)