GLIDE Co-Executive Directors Kristen G. Yamamoto and Rita Shimmin share their reflections from an awe-inspiring holiday experience!
Invited by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Co-Executive Directors Kristen Growney Yamamoto and Rita Shimmin were honored to represent GLIDE at a recent White House holiday reception on December 20. The rigor of the multiple security check points dissolved into displays of beautiful and magnificent decorations. Young men and women in formal military dress welcomed guests with smiles and holiday greetings. Loudly, proudly, and beautifully, a Baptist Ensemble sang a joyous salutation as we entered the room.
Rita shares a personal reflection on the White House invitation, “My personal history now includes being inside the White House and shaking hands with the President. My family is very proud of this. Held twice a day for two weeks, these holiday parties are the parties for the People, part of making the White House the house of the People. These parties are to thank the supporters of the President, his staff and his partners.” Rita continues, “I think of myself as pretty jaded about politics and such, but being here has surprisingly opened me to a place where I feel proud, committed, and more understanding of the complexities of being President. A government worker for 19 years said that in his time, no president has included the staff in this celebration to the extent that this President does. He and Mrs. Obama want this to be a house for the People. I am one of his People.”
Shaking hands with the President and the First Lady was the highlight of their visit. Their attendance also came with the privilege of wandering through several rooms where the history of our country is told in different ways. Every wall is decorated with photographs and paintings depicting presidents and first ladies, White House family traditions, dinner settings and holiday greetings from the beginning of our young country’s 200 years until the present. This year the White House, made of gingerbread, was displayed over a fireplace in one room. Up the stairs, the Marine Band Ensemble played holiday favorites, and champagne was offered in long stem glasses. Though the dress attire was conservative – black and subdued colors – the event was festive, everyone expressed joy and pleasure to be here – to be invited to the White House! History was everywhere.
“When the invitation arrived, I wasn’t sure it was real. Is this an invitation to the White House? It is an invitation to the White House!” Kristen shares her delighted surprise and reflects, “As a child in the 1970s, I visited the White House on public tours. This trip brought back those memories along with creating many new and special memories. While the visit and recognition were spectacular, they have been hard to sum-up for me. The environment was so full of life: the magnificent holiday decorations, the original portraits of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy and other long admired women, seeing history of Civil Rights and the founding of our country. I felt so honored to be shaking hands with the President, for being recognized for our work here at GLIDE, and proud of the association of GLIDE’s work with our President.”
In addition to the holiday reception, Kristen and Rita were invited to a policy briefing by representatives from various offices of the President and First Lady. The invitees were a gathering of non-profit leaders from across the country. The President considers non-profits to be partners in implementing many of the initiatives of the White House and they left with an even deeper understanding that the work done at GLIDE is even bigger than what happens in the city, regionally, at the state level and even nationally.
In 2011, GLIDE was recognized by the White House as a Champion Non-profit. As a community leader, GLIDE is a recognized partner of the White House, one of many partners that the President invited to the reception. Kristen and Rita share some take-aways from this awe-inspiring opportunity:
- GLIDE’s work is important and an example of ‘walking the talk’ in Washington DC. GLIDE does the work every day. We are the President’s words, in action. Our selection and inclusion in the White House website as a ‘Champion Non-Profit’ highlights this for the world to see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/11/04/glide-champion-non-profit.
- Our country has many great leaders, evidenced by those in attendance at the party, by the history in the building, and our staff. In the morning policy update before the reception, there was a diverse group of non-profit leaders from across the country and across the spectrum of issues. They exemplified the leadership needed across our country and organizations to do our important work. GLIDE’s staff leaders are crucial to ‘walking the talk’ and creating examples for others to follow and share.
- Traditions are important. The opening of the White House to members of the public started with First Lady Martha Washington. Though it took three security checks plus a dog-sniffing check to get into the White House, the tradition continues to invite citizens to enjoy in-person time with our President.
Kristen and Rita will carry these memories forward with them forever and as the New Year begins, they share best wishes in 2014!