Meeting President Obama in the ‘Glades reaffirms faith in God
President Barack Obama and Peterman.
By Audrey Peterman
When the call came from my friend at Everglades National Park informing me that Frank and I were invited to be part of a small group in the park for President Obama’s visit the following day, I felt immediately ashamed. Because I had been wondering, “How is it possible that with all the vital information we have to share, we don’t have a speaking engagement for Earth Day? Do people not even care to know how we can avoid the environmental disasters that are right around the corner?”
I felt ashamed that I had not trusted God enough, because now I could see clearly that if we had a speaking engagement we’d most likely be out of town, or at the very least we would not have been able to break our commitment and would have missed meeting the President.
The park was closed for the President’s visit, and only about 100 people were invited. The President spent a good deal of time on the Anhinga Trail, my favorite of all the trails in more than 170 units of the National Park System that we have visited from Alaska to Florida. While we waited for him near the administration buildings at the entrance to the park, I imagined how much fun he was having on the trail. I imagined him walking on the concrete trail beside the flowing waters, watching the Anhingas drying their wings on the pond apple trees, seeing the alligators swimming languidly or laying in the saw grass among the exotic wading birds. I pictured how his blood pressure would plunge several points just by being in that setting looking out at the vast expanse of un-disturbed nature.
When the Presidential music started up and the President came from around the building, his long stride taking him across the grass and his youthful step bounding up to the podium, it was clear that he felt totally relaxed. What a great getaway from the incredible pressures of the most demanding job on earth. The crowd erupted in cheers as the President began to speak.
He spoke about his pleasure at being in the ‘Glades, being on the trail and meeting a group of fourth graders on the trail.
“They were very excited,” he said. “Not to see me, to see the alligators!” he quipped.
He talked about the threats of climate change and said that climate change is real, it is here and now. He mentioned the health impacts that doctors are already seeing, and the threat to our national security form increasing disruption sue to weather. He said it is urgent for us to address climate change and make preparations.
‘When there’s a storm coming you don’t stick your head in the sand, you prepare.”
He said that a far larger proportion of our energy comes from clean sources than in 2008, and that we must continue to increase renewable energy. “When you put on the brakes in your car it doesn’t come to an immediate stop,” he said, illustrating that the process takes time.
The President announced the creation of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas National Landmark which will add the home of the Mother of the Everglades to the National Park System. He said that national parks are an incredible boost for our economy as every dollar invested by the federal government in the parks provides a $10 return.
“I am not a big investor, but I think those are very good returns,” the President said.
When he stepped down off the podium to greet the people eagerly waiting to meet him, I was beside myself. Miraculously I was in the front row, and I said to the Secret Service agent beside the President, “I’ve got to get a picture with the President and shake his hand.”
“OK, why don’t you give your camera to the young lady behind you and ask her to take your picture?” Duh.
When the President approached me, eyes gleaming, teeth sparkling, the most beautiful strong gentle presence, I was agape.
“Hello,” he said, “How are you?”
“Wonderful, Mr. President,” “Thank you for creating all the new monuments and Pullman in particular.”
His smile widened and he continued to Frank who was standing next to me. “Hello, sir,” the President said respectfully.
Frank says he can’t remember what he said because he was so emotional, thinking how his dad would have given anything to meet a Black President. When the meeting broke up we resolved that we’d never wash our hands again that had touched the President. Bur of course that couldn’t last very long….
The lesson I’ve taken to heart is, continue to do your best and whatever happens, know that God has so much better in store for you that you can dream of. All I can say is, “Thank you, God!”