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“They were exactly as I had hoped”

Dinner with Barack and Michelle, 02/08/12

Last Thursday night, ReGina Newkirk from Nashville sat down for dinner with President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and four other grassroots supporters. She jokes about it, saying it’s no big deal—just had a meal with “some old friends.” But when she first heard the news that she was a winner of Dinner with Barack and Michelle and she could bring a guest, ReGina pinched herself—and immediately thought of her dad.

“I was just in shock. Of all the people in all of the country who support the President, I couldn’t believe I had been chosen. I was deeply honored and really excited to provide that opportunity for my father. My dad is a huge supporter of the President, and for somebody who grew up in the segregated South, to sit down with our first African-American president and really appreciate the things that have happened over his lifetime—it was an amazing chance for him to see how much the country has grown and we have progressed, and to see that in a very unique way. To provide him with that watershed moment in his life, I was so thrilled I could do that.”

The three winners and their guests hit it off from the start. Then, the President and First Lady walked into the restaurant. ReGina already had a positive picture of the Obamas in her mind, and she says the real-life couple didn't disappoint—it felt like she had known them for years.

“They just instantly joined in and they immediately put us all at ease. We did talk some about policy, and also told a lot of funny stories. There really were times when I forgot that I was talking to the President and First Lady because they were so comfortable with us. You would think at one of these events that you would get the campaign image that they want to project, but we got a chance to meet the genuine Barack and Michelle Obama. They seemed genuine to me before, and they were. It was really thrilling that they were exactly as I had hoped.”

When she’s not dining with the first couple in D.C., ReGina works as the executive director of a non-profit that uses creative outlets to give teens a positive alternative to negative influences. Over dinner, she got a chance to discuss her passion.

“I talked about what’s happening with the kids I’m working with back home, about how do we get kids to understand about responsibility and accountability. Mrs. Obama was talking about things they do with their daughters, about how we make that kind of impact with kids who don’t have those role models telling them they have to practice to be the kind of person they want to be. And you can see the difference it makes.”

Barack and Michelle told her they were impressed with her work.

“The President said it’s important for us to recognize that we serve as role models, and we have to stay positive and support ourselves, making sure that we’re in connection with others who do the same work—make sure we’re not on an island and don’t get discouraged when it’s hard. They were very encouraging, extremely supportive.”

There was one unexpected moment during dinner, ReGina says. The President asked two other guests, John and Cathleen, who was watching their two boys while they came out for dinner. When they told him it was a friend, the President asked for her name and wrote her a quick thank-you note.

“You’re talking about one of the most powerful men in the world, and he took the time to have dinner with us, people who gave two-digit dollar donations to the campaign, so that already said a lot. But then he asked about their boys, and took time to thank the babysitter for making it possible for them to attend. It shows the level of consideration he has. What it tells me is that he does think of every American. We all matter, we’re all important to him.”

The dinner also reinforced something for ReGina that she wants other supporters to know. She couldn’t pitch in much, but she and her father ended up sitting down for dinner with the President of the United States.

“The President and Mrs. Obama really value every donor, including small donors. And so your $25 gift does make a difference and does matter, and it really is important to them.”

There are only two seats left for the next Dinner with Barack. Enter now for your chance to see what it was like to be in ReGina’s shoes.

Purchase/contribution is not necessary and will not increase chances. Enter by 3/18 for next drawing. Approx value of prize: $1150. Odds depend on # of entries received. Subject to Official Rules & restrictions on eligibility. Void where prohibited. Obama for America 130 E Randolph Chicago IL 60601.

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