Sunday, April 26, 2015

Meeting Michelle yesterday

(Not very substantive post on meeting Michelle Obama, click here to read if you're idly curious....)

Maybe I should call it "meeting" Michelle Obama - a handshake, someone told her my first name, she thanked us for what the Water District is doing, we posed for a picture, and then the Water District CEO and I were out the White House door. Interesting and fun experience though.

I got to wonder beforehand how one addresses the First Lady (as best I could tell in my brief phone googling, it's "Mrs. Obama"). I probably didn't use that knowledge - I have no recollection of what I said to her other than "thank you", hopefully whatever else I said wasn't too incoherent. She had a very warm and sincere demeanor about her though, both in a ten minute speech she gave beforehand about the importance of drinking water and in how she looked at you in the eye and smiled as we had the photo-op.

I've met just a handful of famous people very briefly - Al Gore, John Edwards before he imploded, a few senators - and she was the warmest of them. Interesting in that my remote impression of Barack is that he's not so warm.

OTOH, there are parts of Michelle's job that can't be that controversial, so maybe it's not that hard to be enthusiastic. The likely type of person opposed to a campaign to drink water would be a real jerk, so maybe she has a leg up expressing enthusiasm with us water people, and in being enthusiastic 20 minutes later when she did a water-focused event with kids out on the White House lawn.

As for why we were there, she's promoting the "Drink Up" campaign to get Americans to drink more water. The tricky part of the campaign is they're focusing solely on the positive message - they're not denigrating other drinks like soda and they're not distinguishing between bottled and tap water. OTOH, this approach lets them get the support of soda and bottled water companies. We were invited because we have joined the effort to encourage water consumption, and our voters taxed themselves two years ago in small part to fund hydration stations in schools so kids can easily refill water bottles. A very nice benefit for us was having the First Lady specifically mention "Santa Clara Valley Water District" and our work in a speech that's now on the White House website. She also made a valid point during her speech, that if we invested the same marketing effort for healthy food that we've been doing for decades for junk food, then we can really make progress.

Two other points - if you're ever invited for that photo-op, apparently it's very bad to try to use your own phone camera. It was fine to do so when she's making her speech, but 10 minutes later I was told extremely urgently to put the phone away when she was doing the photo-ops with others. Now you know.

The other funny thing was that after everything was done outside on the White House lawn, we couldn't figure out how to leave. I suggested the two of us make a run for the fences and jump them, but that didn't happen. Instead we milled around with everyone else until someone who knew what they were doing started to go, and we followed the herd.

I'm told the photos will take a while before release, but in the meantime we have her speech: