For Brighton resident Muriel Kaier, meeting President Barack Obama was “the chance of a lifetime.”
The retired teacher, Livingston County organizer for the Obama For America (OFA) 2012 campaign, was one of three southeast Michigan residents selected by campaign officials to meet the president during his visit to Ann Arbor on Jan. 27.
“I was in shock,” said Kaier, who not only got to meet the president just before his speech at the University of Michigan but was chosen to have some of her remarks about the meeting posted on Obama’s re-election campaign website. “I can’t believe all this has happened to me,” Kaier said.
“I hadn’t even imagined I’d get to meet the president,” she said. But she learned of her selection when she was called by Laura Warbelow, OFA Regional Field Director, a few days before Obama’s appearance on the University of Michigan campus. “At first, I thought I was dreaming; this couldn’t be real,” she said.
But soon enough, she was driving to Ann Arbor to pick up Jenny Balay, the Washtenaw County resident selected to meet the president. The two were shown to the VIP parking area once they arrived at the University of Michigan’s Al Glick Field House parking lot. “We parked next to Sen. Carl Levin and walked in with him,” Kaier said. “That in itself was thrilling.”
Once they were inside the University’s massive new indoor football practice facility, a campaign official examined the letters of invitation and told them that the letters had been sent in error. They would not get to meet the president, after all.
Fortunately, State OFA director Garrett Anwa overheard the exchange and intervened on behalf of the women, explaining that they were, indeed, on the official list and should be admitted. Soon, they found themselves in the Glick’s recreation room, where Obama would meet with legislators, campaign officials and some “just plain people”prior to giving his speech, Kaier said. There, she and Balay connected with the third member of their group, Ziad Khalita, a 14-year-old high school student from Wayne County who was selected because he started a Young Democrats club while in middle school.
“After a couple of false starts, President Obama entered the room,” Kaier said. “I could actually feel the energy in that room rise when (Obama) entered the room. He is taller – and more handsome – than he appears on TV. He has such an aura of dignity.” When it was Kaier’s turn, she was introduced and the president shook her hand, said it was nice to meet her and thanked her for being such a hard-working volunteer for his re-election campaign. After a short chat, Kaier said “There are millions of hard-working OFA volunteers devoted to your re-election. God Bless you and your family,” whereupon the president enveloped her in a hug, thanked her again and said that meeting her was his pleasure.
Official photos were snapped and Kaier was ushered into the fieldhouse, to a seat up front with her name on it, to listen to Obama’s speech along with an audience estimated at upwards of 3,000. “His speech was very powerful,” Kaier said. “It focused strongly on the high cost of college and what his administration wants to do to make it more affordable for everyone – an idea that was a big hit with the audience of mostly college students. But he also talked about the auto industry and why he supported it when others wanted to let it die. And why he still believes in the auto industry and American manufacturing in general. It was an excellent, powerful speech.”
Kaier also gave audience tickets to the event to Jordan Genso, Sue Fletcher and Bob Webb, three members of the Livingston County OFA Howell team, TEAM POTUS. She got the tickets from the Obama campaign organization because she is a county organizer, she said.
Kaier’s appearance on the OFA website – it’s still there on the blog, although not as near the top as it was Monday when it first showed up – was enough to further enthuse her for the campaign to come, she said. She has not yet received the official photo of her with the president, but when it arrives, she said, “I will treasure it forever.”
For information about the Obama For American 2012 campaign in Livingston County, or to volunteer, e-mail Kaier at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find Kaier’s remarks on the OFA blog under the headline, “I’d Give 110 Percent,” at www.barackobama.com/news.