It’s not every day (or year, rather) that one gets an invitation to attend the President’s State of the Union Address in Washington D.C. But for Clark State Community College President Dr. Jo Alice Blondin, that invitation came this year. Blondin attended the State of the Union address as a guest of Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner (R-OH).
Not only was it a unique opportunity, but “it was literally a dream come true” Blondin said. A formal photo was taken to commemorate the event, but she also has these memories to share:
Were you surprised by the invitation to attend the SOTU? “Pleasantly so!”
Was attending the event an easy decision to make? “After consulting with our Board Chair and my family, it was a very easy decision.
What special rules or guidelines were given for the SOTU event? “We would go through security twice, and we would not be allowed to take certain items through, such as cell phones, coats or any liquids.”
What did you wear? “I wore a green jacket and black skirt. I wanted my family to be able to see me, and they did on CNN!”
Were you able to approach or meet anyone other than Speaker Boehner? “I saw Senator Sherrod Brown and Congressman Mike Turner, and I sat next to Jill Biden's sister during the SOTU. In fact, I moved over so she could sit in my assigned seat!”
What was your conversation with Speaker Boehner? “We met with him for 30-45 minutes before a reception he hosted in his office. I asked him about the Community College proposal and indicated that I was in a ‘wait and see’ mode. The Speaker was so hospitable and personable, and his staff so organized; it was a perfect evening. After the reception, we proceeded to the gallery of the House of Representatives. We were told to be seated by 8:15 p.m., and Speaker Boehner would gavel in the House and Senate at 8:30 p.m.”
What happens before/during/after the speech that viewers do not see on TV? “Viewers see all of the activity on the floor of the House beforehand, but those present really have a sense of excitement and enjoyment of the work they do. The Senators and Congressman obviously enjoy each others' company.”
Overall thoughts on President Obama’s speech? “I feel honored to have been invited to hear our President address the nation and focus on community colleges and their affordability. Regardless of the outcome of his proposal, it's an historic moment for the staff, faculty and students at community colleges.”
What part of the speech did you find most interesting or appealing? “The recognition of our veterans and active military was moving and welcome.”
Any interesting behind-the-scenes action? “It was relaxing to be without my cell phone for two hours! One interesting moment was at 7:45 p.m., right before we were ready to walk to the Gallery, the staff strongly suggested a restroom stop. It was excellent advice!”
What are some things you ‘took home’ with you that you will apply in your position as Clark State President or in general? “I brought home even more excitement and optimism for community colleges, and such pride that we were acknowledged for our affordability and quality in such a public forum.”
Do you have an unforgettable or favorite moment from the event? “The most unforgettable moment for me was when the Speaker gaveled in the various branches and constituents: Senators and Congressman, Supreme Court, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the President's Cabinet and the President and Vice President. I also enjoyed the introduction of the First Lady; I was seated two rows behind her.”
Anything you would like to add or share?“I only wish my mother could have been with me. She was a history major and politically involved and engaged, and she's so proud that I got to attend. I went to D.C. with my family for the first time when I was 10 years-old, and she instilled in me a respect, wonder and engagement in our democracy.”