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  Nat Bates' White House Christmas
December 25, 2013

White House Christmas


From Nat Bates:

While sharing my recent visit to the White House with several friends, they encouraged me to also share it with a larger segment of the community. So below is my story including a few photos which I trust you will enjoy.
All I can say is "WOW, WOW and FANTASTIC".

Having attended President Jimmy Carter's 1976 and President Barack Obama's
2008 Presidential Inaugurations as well as taking a personal photo with both President Carter and Obama, I thought things could not get any better for me politically speaking. However, when a beautiful personalized engraved invitation from the President and First Lady arrived in the mail mid November inviting me and a guest to a White House Holiday Reception on December 17, 2013, things began to change. My initial reaction was to toss it aside because I felt the trip would be an inconvenience while flying coast to coast in unbearable cold weather, heavy traffic during the holidays, etc.

A week later I retrieved the invitation and thought to myself, how often does an individual receives a personal invitation from the most powerful political person in the world along with the First Lady. After providing the secret service pertinent information such as name, address, social security, place of birth, etc., reservations were made for air and hotel accommodations.

Arriving late Saturday afternoon, December 14th, my daughter in her first visit to DC, and I got a good night's sleep and was up early to visit some of the city's favorite sites. I had been to the city several times during my political career and had visited most of the historical sites and thought my daughter would enjoy the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. There is so much to see and enjoy in each and every Museums, it will require a person hours and hours to complete a visit to each one. In addition to the various exhibits in the Air and Space Museum, we took in an exciting 3D movie called "Hubble3D" where astronauts repaired a telescope in outer space.
Incidentally, most people are not aware the telescopic mirrors were polished at the L3 Integrated Optical Systems - Tinsley on Research Drive in Richmond, Calif. We saw a second movie called "Undiscovered Worlds" which featured hundreds of planets that have been detected orbiting stars beyond the Sun.

After an exhausting day, we returned to our Courtyard Marriott Hotel and waited to have dinner with an old Richmond friend, Dick Kochan at one of DC's famous Italian restaurants, Tesoro on Connecticut Ave N/W. Some may remember Dick when he was the City of Richmond's Lobbyist where he served us for 39 years. He worked with Congressman George Miller Jr., whom I consider the most effective and best Congressperson in DC, our two very capable Senators Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer and other congressional legislatures to secure millions and millions of dollars for the City of Richmond. Dick was a major player in helping to obtain 95% funding for the Knox Freeway with the assistance of our Congressional leaders and at the time, our own great State Assemblyman John Knox, S/F State Senator John Foran and I who visited the White House during the Carter Administration.

When in DC, shopping for souvenirs becomes a top priority. On the streets and around the Capitol, Smithsonian Museum and other locations, one can pay a small fortune for gifts. During my visits to DC, I earlier located a great souvenir shop called Ana International Trading Company, 1135-37 4th Street, N/E. Within a two block radius, there are more than a dozen similar souvenir shops. I guarantee a cab ride to and from these markets will be a bargain.

Our last full day was Tuesday and I chose Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History. This museum featured the evolution of man from the monkey age to present. In addition to several exhibits, we saw two 3D movies, "Jerusalem", an inspiring eye-opening tour of the world's oldest and most enigmatic cities. It also featured the three cultures of religions with Jewish, Christian and Muslim working together. The second movie was "Titans of the Ice Age 3D". This movie featured the beautiful and otherworldly, frozen landscapes of North America, Europe and Asia 10,000 years before modern civilization. An ice age where man shared the tundra with majestic beasts, from saber-toothed cats, cave bears, dire wolves and iconic woolly mammoths. We also viewed the Live Butterflies which contributes so much to our society.

Back to our hotel and after a quick nap, we dressed and were off to the major event of our visit. The holiday reception was listed 5PM to 8PM and as we arrive about 4:30PM, surprisingly, there was neither a long line nor a long wait to pass through security. Once past the security, nostalgia began to set in with the beautiful Christmas decorations from the entrance of the White House to throughout the entire residence. Several in attendance were from California and all of the guests were friendly, loving and having a great time. Inside the White House, we were restricted to two levels. The entrance level consisted of a number of meeting rooms and several Christmas Trees, decorations and staff welcoming us with champagne, wine, water, etc.
The second floor was the location of the event and was one story below the president's living quarters. Several 3X5 oil portraits of past presidents and first ladies hung on the walls of both floors. It was immediately noticeable that staff was very friendly while being dressed in either neat tuxedos or white uniforms.

As we entered the second floor, the atmosphere was nothing but a great party with a band playing, additional drinks flowing (wine, champagne, sodas and sparking water), an assortment of food (Salmon, Lamb Chops, Beef, Turkey, Ham, Chicken, Jumbo Shrimp and Crab, Oysters, various vegetables, salad and breads, etc), dessert (home made Apple Pie, Coconut and Red Velvet Cakes, Pudding, Strawberry Sundaes, Pecan Pralines, Cookies baked in Xmas decorations like trees, stocking shapes, jingle bells etc to name a few).

The President and First Lady were scheduled to appear at 6:15PM and true to the program, at the precise hour, we witnessed those famous words, "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE PRESIDENT AND FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA", as they walked down from their residence to the thunderous applause of the guests. Both were immacutely dressed, as usual and were in great spirit. The president was particularly cheerful as he provides his usual serious comments coupled with humor. He first thanked us for our support in his reelection to another four year term. He also reminded us of being thankful we reside in a country with freedom and thanked the military personnel who have made our country what it is today. He then asked if we liked the various Christmas decorations in the White House, where everyone applauded and saying "yes". He indicated he was up until midnight placing the ornaments on the tree to which the first lady smiling while shaking her head and waging her finger side to side with a disapproving gesture to the delight of the audience. He then pointed out that the white house was a rental unit and they have only three more years of occupancy. He cautioned us not to steal any silverware and not tear up the place to again the delightful laughter of the crowd. He then indicated we were free to take a few napkins (paper) with the presidential seal. Once he concluded his remarks, he and the first lady greeted everyone in the front row where a rope separated the guest from the president and first lady. The First Lady led the way with hugs and kisses to everyone she make contact with. The president kissed and hugged the ladies and shook hand with the men. My daughter was fortunate to receive a kiss and a hug from both. I settled for a kiss and hug from the first lady and a hand shake and pat on the shoulder from the president. As a result of the kiss from the first lady, I have not washed my face in days.

As the President and First Lady's departed, guests returned to conversations, eating, drinking and taking photos. It was not uncommon to see guest taking photos for each other with varies president portraits and first ladies hanging on the walls. Prior to the event, I had anticipated there would be at a minimum of 500 guests but to my surprise, the small and intimate group numbered only about 200. As we departed, Christmas carols were sung by one of the military choir group and each of us received a souvenir booklet of Christmas carol songs stamped with the white house emblem.  In retrospect, I am ecstatic with joy that I changed my mind in attending the event because the experience was one of a life time adventure, especially when one consider the historical occasion of the time and setting. This country may or may not elect another African American President of the United States of America, but for me, I can say with enormous pride and appreciation to the citizen of Richmond who elected me to this official position, I was present with my daughter and felt honored and deeply humble to be amongst a small invited group of guests attending the December 17, 2013 President and First Lady 2013 Holiday Reception in the White House. Lastly, I hope I made Richmond proud in that I was on my best behavior and did not steal any silverware, nor tear up the place but I did take a few napkins.