Last weekend, the events coordinator at TechShop Pittsburgh (where I’m a member and textile department regular) called to ask a very unexpected question, “Would you like to be at the TechShop on Tuesday when President Obama is visiting?” Hopefully, I said something more articulate than what I was thinking, which was, “Are you serious? Uh, yeah!” Clearly, I proceeded to jump in place and fist pump the air while remaining on the phone trying to prevent my voice from reflecting my giddiness.
After a thorough vetting by the White House of my upstanding citizen-ness, I was given the go ahead to report to the TechShop on Tuesday to join other TechShop members to meet the most powerful man in the world. We waited (a long time) for his arrival. He eventually appeared, and as he made his way to his stool to speak, he approached a few us (myself included) for a moment of direct eye contact and a strong handshake. Amazing.
Why did I get to shake his hand you ask? Because I was seated in the first row, in front of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Senator Bob Casey. My head was literally obstructing their view, which is how Mayor Peduto got this shot of me asking the President a question. How did I get the photo? Bill Peduto tweeted it, of course. I can’t make this stuff up.
The question I posed to the President was about today’s environment for mothers who are entrepreneurs. In a nutshell, he said it’s difficult for moms, and more broadly for families, to run businesses in the US where the support systems for them is among the worst of all developed countries. However, he’s seeing a shift where employers are acknowledging the need for flexibility for parents, and in turn they get happy employees who give 110%. For entrepreneurs, he basically agreed that it’s a challenge and hopes that people continue to evolve their thinking about professionally penalizing businesswomen with families.
Apparently, this was a hot topic because I was literally yelled at by three news anchors at the end trying to catch my attention to interview me about my own experience being a mother and small business owner. I’m told I was on live TV. Although, unfortunately, the interwebs seem to have caught no trace of such footage.
Yes, I contemplated giving President Obama one of my scarves for Michelle, but then I thought, 1. He must get enough gifts to fill a football stadium, and 2. multiple Secret Service agents told me repeatedly not to hand him anything. I did as I told by the very intimidating men in suits with earpieces.
And that was my Tuesday.