Obama: Your Question, Ms. Keith? is a lovely, short piece of writing from Tamara Keith, the relatively new White House correspondent for National Public Radio. (Ms. Keith has been a journalist, on and off the air, for many years.) She writes about her day, recently, when for the first time she asked the president a question at a news conference in the White House briefing room.
The story offers lots of details, and even shares Ms. Keith’s stumbling start, albeit without sound, but that’s not why I’m writing about it. No, what makes the story so worthy is the complete absence of pretense or “cool” from Ms. Keith. She’s excited, and getting to ask President Obama a question is a big deal for her.
There’s so much worldly-ness—deserved or not—in our daily encounters, that I could not pass up the chance to share another person’s genuine excitement about what I assumed would be a “no big deal” moment. I was struck by the fact that Ms. Keith put herself out there, big time, by sharing her excitement, for our society definitely values “be cool” and “act like you’ve been there” as “being” modes.
Many years ago I had an encounter that struck me in a similar way. Alas, I wasn’t blogging yet, and one of the bit players in this story had only recently “invented” the Internet, so this is a new story.
I had a client and, in furtherance of representing him, I had dealings with a prominent, senior United States Senator. There were several contacts, over a short period of time, but it was a definite kick in the pants when I’d call his office and get put through, right away. One call, though, stuck out. I called at a scheduled time. “He’s not in,” I was told, “but he’ll call you back.” A few minutes later the call came, with profuse apologies and the explanation that a meeting with Vice President Gore had run late. Now, “my” Senator knew the Vice President for most of his life, and had served in the Senate with both him and his father, Albert Gore, Sr. Nevertheless, it was evident in his tone that he was excited about having been in a meeting with Vice President Gore. I recall being struck, at the time, by that ability to stay excited, despite decades in office, many meetings with presidents, vice presidents, heads of state, etc.
Acting like you’ve been there has its moments—no one wants to see me stumble at the beginning of a trial—but having a sense of joy and excitement as life comes along wins out in the long run. Have a joyous and exciting week!