When an email from the White House came into my inbox, I paid attention! That’s the situation I found myself in, in mid-January. I was delighted to find that Child Care Aware® of Kansas was being offered two tickets to attend the President’s Remarks at the University of Kansas. It really didn't take me more than two minutes to look at my calendar and send a quick response back to the White House, stating Absolutely! Much to my surprise, on Wednesday (the day before the President’s visit) we were offered another seven tickets! Of course I said we’d take them. Within a matter of one hour, I called the CCR&Rs in Kansas, two child care center directors and one high school teacher to extend the offer. All seven people immediately said “YES”!
Dean Olson (The Family Conservancy), Elaine Edwards (center director) Deb Crowl (center director), Leadell Ediger (CCR&R Network Director), Cheryl Firsching (Child Start), Amanda Ediger (High school teacher), Angie Saenger (CCR&R Network), Tanya Koehn (CCR&R Network).
From the email from the White House, I learned that there was a specific procedure to picking up the tickets, so off to Lawrence, Kansas, we went on Wednesday afternoon. The pickup time was between 4 – 6 pm. We got there at 5:00 and waited an hour to get our nine precious tickets. Much discussion took place because we got a “red” ticket, versus a “green” or a “white” ticket, how close to the front would we actually be?
Thursday morning dawned quite chilly in Lawrence, Kansas but an electric feel was in the air when we snaked our way through the waiting line. We made arrangements to meet one of our colleagues from the Kansas City area outside the arena where the event was being held; luckily I got his cell phone number just to be safe. Standing was the name of the game that day, standing outside in the cold, standing for three hours inside waiting and standing, applauding, cheering for a short 35 minute window when the President spoke. What an exciting 35 minutes though! When the President finally made his entrance, we were within 30 feet of him and had perfect viewing!
Front: Deb Crowl, Cheryl Firsching, Leadell Ediger
Middle row: Elaine Edwards, Tanya Koehn, Dean Olson
Back row: Reva Wywadis and Angie Saenger
President Obama strolled in with his shirt sleeves rolled up, ready to go! It was very obvious, the President knows how to excite a crowd, and he did so by starting off with saying “he’s a Kansas boy”. This statement got a big roar from the crowd. Yes, the President has deep roots in Kansas. He then shared his message, that middle-class economics should be the focus! This included a healthy discussion about child care! After listening only days before to the State of the Union address, I knew he had big plans to strengthen child care, but again in Lawrence the President said “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us”, which brought, again, a huge roar from the crowd. During this short address, I heard the President’s passion for young children and their working families. His persistence and dedication to wanting to help the middle-class and how much he values and supports, not only early learning, but learning for all! He showed his impatience to get the job done. An added bonus for me and something I didn't expect to see was his delightful humor.
After the speech, the President interacted with the crowd by shaking many hands. Because we were so close to the stage, before he left the auditorium he shook the hands of four of the nine early childhood folks that went with us! This clearly will be a day that we’ll remember for years to come.
By: Leadell Ediger, Executive Director, Child Care Aware of Kansas