FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Robin Winer
CHEC Student, Juan Rodriguez, is First Lady’s Guest at Presidential Address
Washington, DC February 25, 2009 – At the invitation of First Lady Michelle Obama, Bell Sophomore Juan Rodriguez attended the President’s address to the joint session of Congress and the Nation on the evening of February 24. Juan originally met the First Lady on February 10 when she visited a neighborhood after-school program and invited him and two other students to sit with her in the first lady’s box for the President’s speech.
A local Columbia Heights resident and a member of Bell’s ROTC program, Juan’s favorite subject is history and he has a great interest in joining the military. He was therefore very interested in the President’s words and all that he saw, visiting both the Capitol and the White House in the course of the evening. His journey began on the 10, when the First Lady visited Mary’s Center after school program where Juan serves as a youth advocate and peer health educator. Juan dedicates 6 hours a week to community service and asked the first lady about how she might help the community with problems of violence. This moment led to a call on the evening of the 24 when he was asked if he would like to join two other students and the first lady witness the President’s speech.
His first stop was to the “Theater Room” at the Capitol, where he met with Mrs. Obama and several other guests from around the country who would be joining the first lady for the evening. The gathering was then escorted to the Capitol for the speech and all returned afterward to the White House for a reception and to meet the President. One of the highlights of Juan’s memorable evening was shaking the President’s hand. Of the First Lady, Juan stated that “she is the kindest woman I have ever met, she immediately shook my hand and gave me a hug.”
Hearing the President first-hand, Juan was encouraged by his “focus on the children of the future and the idea that a lot of people who do not have health care would be able to find assistance.” Juan is concerned about the high dropout rate in schools and believes that parents should be active in educating their children. For him the President’s words were a call for community service. He “felt good” about meeting important politicians and discovered within himself a new interest for politics.
Throughout the evening Juan’s experience was seasoned with a reverent sense of history; the architecture, objects of art, seeing people he had previously only seen on TV and the presence of “President Obama, a man who changed history.” Speaking from his experience, Juan wants to encourage others to participate in community service and suggests that their doing so may lead them to new and exciting places.
His evening with the First Lady made “him proud to be an American” and made him love this country even more.