For my spring 2014 semester, I´m going to take my Media Relations class. I didn´t want to take it in my first semester, because I thought I had enough experience dealing with the press, after 4 years of doing it in my past work. This post is about one of those experiences, in my opinion, one of the most awesome: The day I went to the White House and the Oval Office.
I’m going to start from the beginning. When the meeting of the President of Chile with President Obama was confirmed, we started to plan the trip. One week before the event, I traveled to DC with two more persons of the advance team, as usual. The President was traveling with a group of 25 journalists, so you there was a lot of work to do.
One of my missions was to find a point of contact of a counterpart for every activity the President was going to attend, including his meeting with Obama. The day we visited the White House with the advance team, I met my counterpart from the US Presidency. We started to talk about the procedures for the press in the meeting and we agreed that it was going to be done the same way we managed the meetings between Presidents in Chile. Only a few number of journalists were going to be able to attend, with preference for cameras and photographers. I thought it was going to be difficult to agree on the numbers, but my counterpart was really flexible with it. So, 8 persons were going to enter to the Oval Office.
Once the President arrived to the US with the media, I met with them to make an overview of the operative program and the logistical aspects. To define who were going to enter, we made a draw: 2 spots for TV, 1 spot for radio, 1 spot for printed media, 2 photographers and 2 official cameraman. The problems started when the radio journalists said that they wanted to go live from inside the White House, what was really unfair for the other radios that didn’t have access to it. Finally we came to an agreement.
So the day came. We arrived at the White House 2 hours before the meeting. After passing the security checks we waited in the Press Room, until I received a call saying that the President was on his way to the meeting. We saw his entrance, and then start making a line to enter the meeting. My counterpart asked me to talk with the Chilean media, because they were a little anxious and inpatient, something logical for such an important event.
After 1 hour of meeting, the signal came. We were directed through different stairs and hallways, until we came to a big closed door: The Oval Office. A security official opened for us, and we came in. Both Presidents were still talking, and once the media was all set up, they both started their remarks in English.
What happened next was one of the most unexpected things I could ever imagine. I prefer to leave you a video about it that tell it with my own words: You know, an image worth more than a thousand words.