Our Favorite POTUS Moments

Last week President Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton, so today we're reflecting on a few of our favorite moments with our favorite POTUS.

SAI: "My favorite moment working for the President happened right at the end of the 2012 campaign, the night before the election.  We were on Air Force One, flying to his final campaign stop in Iowa.  The last couple of weeks had been a mad sprint for everyone involved, so I hadn't really had a chance to reflect on the experience as a whole.  As usual the flight was an opportunity to decompress, but also go over our plan for covering the President's final rally in Des Moines.  

About half way through the flight, the President made his way through the cabin.  He was going around to shake every single person's hand, from White House staff, to campaign folks like me, to press, to Secret Service, he made sure to acknowledge everyone for all the work they'd put in to get to this point.  It was a small gesture, that meant a lot to everyone that shook his hand.  Given how little we slept those last few weeks, just following him around the country, I could imagine how tired he must have been too, speaking at all those events, shaking thousands of hands, and running the country at the same time.  Still, he chose to shake even more hands on that plane, instead of taking some time to relax, because he felt it was the right thing to do.  That moment really stuck with me, and was a perfect button to an amazing experience as a member of the President's 2012 campaign video team."  

ADAM: “Coming from a photojournalism background I always enjoyed doing stories that showed how the President’s policies impacted regular Americans. My favorite piece like this was one of our Letters to the President series about a boy named Ian. Ian wrote a letter to President Obama to thank him for bringing his dad home from Iraq. We worked it out so Ian would be able to shake hands with the President on the rope line after his speech in Las Vegas. 

President Obama gave Ian two challenge coins, one for his dad, and one for Ian. "You tell your dad that we're really proud of him," President Obama said as the two shook hands. "And you look after your mom, now." This exchange was brief, but I kept thinking about how that boy would remember this forever. He'd tell his friends about it. His uncle's and aunts would tell their friends what happened. Grandpa Ian would probably tell his grandkids the story one day." 

TOM: “Hands down the best campaign moment for me was working as the President’s photographer at his campaign stop in Lima, OH. I grew up about 30 minutes from Lima in Fort Wayne, IN and President Obama would be the first president since Truman to campaign in Lima. My parents drove in from the rally and got to see me work in the press pool. I was shooting alongside White House photographer Pete Souza and filling in for the very talented Scout Tufankjian who was already enroute to the next event. My parents got to shake the President’s hand and I got a photo of POTUS that the DCCC posted on Election Day that got 500,000 likes. For an Indiana kid who grew up pretty far from the White House it was an experience I'll never forget.” 

NOAH: "I met The President three times over the course of the 2012 campaign. And while I can certainly pinpoint my single favorite moment I think its important to mention how every time I met him he always did something that was a testament to his incredible character.  

In September of 2012 I was in New York to cover a fundraiser hosted by Jay-Z and Beyonce. After giving a stirring speech he made sure to take some time away from schmoozing with the Manhattan elite to visit the kitchen and thank everyone on staff for their help in catering the evening. At the end of the night, as he made his exit down a back hallway to the service elevator, he was accompanied by J and B, who had just helped him raise millions of dollars. A close friend of mine in surrogates (the name the of the team that handles celebrity supporters) had coordinated the entire event and she was following closely behind the power trio as they said their goodbyes. POTUS got in the elevator and just before the doors closed, he called out “Hey one more thing” Beyonce turned around and said “Yes?” but in fact The President was addressing my friend, “You did an amazing job tonight”, she blushed and thanked him. She came running into the other room grinning from ear to ear to tell me what had just happened. We hugged and laughed, basking in the enjoyment of the evening. I was just as giddy, having completed an interview with another person I greatly admire, Jay-Z.

Fast forward 2 months and it’s the night before the election.  Nerves were running very high for those of us in the trenches, and despite what many people around the country thought, the race was neck and neck. As we made our final push to get the word of our man out there, we pulled together one of the most amazing feats in Livestream production history (that’s another post all together).  

We were in Columbus, Ohio and the plan was for POTUS to land and give his speech at Nationwide Area. Immediately following that speech he needed to jump right back on AF1 to get to Iowa where he was set to give his final speech of the campaign, and his very last speech as a candidate. Needles to say it was an epic day. As we scrambled to wrap out one live stream and prepare to head out to Iowa for a next, the President did something unexpected. Instead of rushing off to board his flight, he told everyone that he wanted to wait. It was unclear at first what for, but as word got around it was said he wanted to personally thank everyone on the crew who helped make this rally the epic and exciting event it turned out to be. After about 30 minutes of personally thanking ushers, volunteers, set builders, stage and lighting crews and anyone else involved, he gave a heartfelt and inspiring speech about his hopes for the future of our country.

Finally, my favorite moment with POTUS came the day after the election. Everyone strolled into the office a little later than usual, our hangovers raging from the celebrations we had left not more than a few hours earlier. It was a surreal experience coming into a relatively quite office after just spending the last 300 days with chaos all around. There were murmurs that POTUS was going to stop by the office, so we rallied the team to start setting up the cameras and sound gear to film what you all might remember as the video where the president cried. That speech was one of the more inspiring and emotional experiences I’ve ever been apart of. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room, including my own. It was such a perfect end to an incredible journey, and in true Obama form he made it his goal to go around the entire office and shake every single person’s hand and thank them for their hard work.

I felt almost high off of the excitement in the room, and possibly from the lingering alcohol in my system. I scrambled to prepare some words for when my turn came to meet him for the last time. The video team had a one-of-a-kind movie poster hanging on the wall from the Davis Guggenheim Documentary . As the President made his rounds hugging people, shaking hands and taking pictures, he got closer and closer to our area. I frantically tried to peel the poster off the wall but I stupidly used duck tape to put it up 6 months earlier. Adam tried to help peel it off with a credit card, but that just tore through the bottom half of the poster making matters worse. After some carful maneuvering I managed to get the poster off the wall with as little damage as possible. I scrambled to find a marker and just at that moment POTUS came over. I thanked him for inspiring me to work as hard as I possible could to make a difference, and he thanked me for my efforts. I told him we made this poster during a screening of the film and if he would honor the video team by signing it. He took the marker and yelled out “Video Team!” I thanked him again and he continued on his way showing his appreciation to every single person who helped him achieve greatness.  

And to me that level of gratitude and respect for others is above all else a true representation of character and class.