A Visit to the White House
When the 200 invitees assembled at the East Gate that September Tuesday, the scene was like airport security. Finally we all were filtered through, and escorted to the State Dining Room for breakfast. Food was not too interesting to me. I was more into checking out the White House…not as a tourist, but as a guest. Wandering through the Blue Room, Green Room, and Red Room, studying the paintings on the walls---that was the real feast.
I was one of the guests invited by Laura Bush to her Seminar on Literature of the American West. To be told that the First Lady knows and reads my books…what an honor.
Running into people I already knew at this conference made it more enjoyable. We all felt similarly honored. There was Les Kelly, my photographer, historian John Miller, Jean Coday, author Ann Romines, and others from South Dakota well known to me. There were four Ingalls siblings, all descendants of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s aunt and uncle.
Checking out a first edition of one of my books sent over from the Library of Congress, during White House visit.
In the East Room, Mrs. Bush opened the proceedings with a gracious, warm, sincere manner. She was low-key, but in charge. She praised the Wilder books, considering them childhood favorites. Then came the speakers, film clips, and discussions.
Breakfast in the State Dining Room during White House conference.
At noon the symposium ended. No one wanted to leave. We wanted to bask in the atmosphere of the East Room, take pictures, and explore. The Marines, obviously used to this behavior, gently escorted us out the double doors. Finally the lights were dimmed. Our afterglow spilled into the grand corridor, where showcases highlighted books mentioned in the morning proceedings. There, from the Library of Congress collection, was one of mine!
Then it was back to the summery warm day and on to other discoveries in Washington. I caught a late flight out, and the next day was back in school, teaching. No one had a clue where I had been the previous day! Sometimes it is best to keep experiences to oneself.