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Weather, which impacted both of the Olympics in Vancouver, also dampened the celebration at the White House today, April 21, 2010, planned for the south lawn. Instead of all the athletes and delegations being outside, we broke into small groups in separate rooms in the West Wing of the White House.
Soon after arriving and being escorted to the West Wing lobby by the Secret Service, I was joined by Bonnie Saint John, an amputee skier from the 84 Paralympics and then by Peggy Fleming from the 1968 Olympics. Bonnie commented that Peggy looked stunning and must have been 9 years old instead of 19 when she competed. We had a great time visiting and then we were escorted to the "Map" room, quite the appropriate place for a GPS guy to meet the President. Our little group was joined by Iraqi veteran, Heath Calhoun and Shani Davis who won bronze and gold medals both in 2006 and 2010. Other dignitaries trickled in while we got situated for our meet and greet.
With great gusto, the Obamas and Bidens congratulated all of us, we chatted individually and took formal and informal photos together. When hugging Michelle Obama, I was surprised how tall she was. I reminded the President that we had met in July and passed along greetings to them both from Stevie Wonder who I hung out with last night in DC.
The Bidens were very gracious and I was struck how lively the Vice President could be. You could tell he would be fun to adventure with.
After they all moved on to the next room with more Olympic athletes, we got a quick tour of the Oval office and then made our exit. I dashed for Union station to make a train to Harrisburg for a conference Thursday and then back out to the "left" coast for the CTEBVI conference. I did rather enjoy taking a taxi with Peggy Fleming, guiding the driver to her hotel and then to the train station. Starting with my spontaneous trip to DC for the inauguration last January, I keep being surprised when two, three, four and now five visits have transpired for White House related events in 15 months. What a privilege and how fun to reflect back to the first visit in 1984.
I did a search on Google to find a press release about the White House reception this Wednesday for the Olympic and Paralympic team, which I will be attending. Little did I know that there would be a YouTube video of the 1984 President Reagan speech, which included Ron Salviolo and me, the only disabled skier at the reception. It is so
amazing to briefly relive those moments through President Reagan's voice, hearing about the amazing athletes of the 84 Olympics in Sarajevo who we hung out with. I got goose bumps all over again.
Little did I know in 1984 that I would have the honor of being part of President Obama's delegation to the Paralympics and attending a reception, 26 years later, with 50 Paralympic athletes along with the 2010 Olympic athletes. This YouTube video is courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library.
2010 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams Bring Excitement of Games to Washington DC
President Obama, the First Lady and the White House Office on Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport will host Team USA at the White House on Wednesday, April 21. The President and First Lady will congratulate the athletes on their performances and thank them for representing the United States during the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. They will also discuss the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. U.S. Teams have visited the White House following an Olympic Games at the
invitation of the President over the past 34 years. More details will be sent out shortly.
See the entire release