From L to R: Kat Hendrix, Director of National Programs & Partnerships and Virginia McEnerney, Executive Director

Guest post from the Alliance’s Executive Director Virginia McEnerney

Yes, it’s true: Kat and I were invited to a holiday party at the White House! Because we’ve been working with so many awesome Washington-based organizations on the National Student Poets Program, we’ve made some good friends in our nation’s capital, and one of them arranged for us to get this invitation.

We headed to the White House on the evening of Dec. 2. After passing through a few security checkpoints we entered the famous building. Everybody who works at the White House is very gracious and warm, so we were welcomed and guided up the stairs to the Central Hall where the U.S. Marine Band was playing. We entered the State Dining Room where a long table was laid out with beautiful food, artfully arranged on shiny platters. I’m vegetarian so the roast beef and oysters didn’t appeal to me, but then I spotted a big spread of cheese, bread, fruit and nuts, beautiful vegetables, and tasty potato cakes. Kat loved the oysters and salmon, though eating oysters in such a fancy setting is a little tricky. I spied the dessert spread in the corner and made a mental note to return later.

All the rooms were open and decorated to the nines with lots of Christmas trees. I learned that Bo, the Obama’s dog, was the theme of the decorations this year, so there were larger-than-life Bos in each room. We passed through the Red Room, Blue Room and Green Room; then entered the East Room, which had another long table filled with food and drinks. A chorus of New York City students performed in the corner while guests mingled and gawked.

All the guests were super-friendly and in a great mood. We met a state representative from Minneapolis who’d brought his 12-year-old daughter, so of course we told her about the Awards. We met the head of the Walker Art Center, and then we ran into our great friends Alice Quinn, head of the Poetry Society of America; Rob Caspar, the head of the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress; and Olivia Morgan, a board member at the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.  We also had the chance to chat with Bob Lynch, Executive Director of Americans for the Arts.

At 7:45pm we headed downstairs to get our picture taken with the President and First Lady. It was a thrill to speak to the President and say that we were there on behalf of the creative students we serve. The photo op only took a few seconds, and it kind of felt like a dream. They will mail the photo to us, but we haven’t received it yet. I hope I didn’t blink!

Afterward, we headed for that dessert table. I had a huge slice of the best coconut cake I’ve every tasted (Kat’s favorite too), followed by warm boysenberry crumble and chocolate truffles. As the party was winding down, we were politely pointed to the coatroom. Kat’s high-heeled shoes were hurting her feet, so we headed out into the night, pinching ourselves to make sure it had all really happened.

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