Tonight I had the opportunity to go to the White House for a meeting. We are asking the Administration to support our efforts to make hearing aids more affordable through the hearing aid tax credit bill, which is currently before Congress. I was there to meet with a Domestic Policy Advisor. I was headed to this meeting like any other meeting, thinking about the agenda, what we hope to get accomplished, etc. Then, you walk up to Pennsylvania Avenue and see the White House. It is an intimidating sight.
The first thing that strikes you is how odd it looks to have this major thoroughfare closed off and barricaded with no traffic allowed. We were told to enter by the North Gate, which is in front of the Eisenhower Building. This is an impressive building, that was the largest office building in the world for the first forty years of its existence. To enter, you first go into the security tent at the gate, and show you ID. They check the computer, make sure your background check came back clean, then clear you to enter. When you get in the building, there are more armed men behind bullet proof glass, who also take your ID, check their computer, then issue you a visitors badge. You must have this visible at all times. Finally, you go to a third station, where you go through the metal detectors and they scan your badge to show you entered this building. One of the rooms we saw is a special meeting room called the Indian Treaty Room.
After our meeting, which went very well, we walked over to the White House to take a peek into the West Wing. We saw the hallway to the Oval Office. Down another hallway is the Situation Room. This is manned 24 hours a day, 365 days per year with the latest telecommunications equipment, satellite up links, etc. When the President is at the White House, he receives an intelligence briefing there every morning at 7:30. The entire grounds are decorated for Christmas, and it is all very beautiful. As you are walking on the grounds, you could see the residence, which had a very large Christmas tree. Down a path into a garden area, you could see a dog bowl for the President’s dogs. There are pictures of the President everywhere in the buildings. In the entrance to the West Wing, those large photographs are changed every few days.
Finally, we left through the Center Gate, where they once again scan your badge to show you are leaving the White House grounds. Then, they make sure you turn your badge in. Finally, you go through a second gate and back out onto Pennsylvania Avenue. One of the neat things about the evening was the gentleman we met with, Ollie Cantos. This gentleman is blind, and an attorney. He is so thrilled to be working for the Administration at the White House. One of the highlights of his life was getting to introduce his mother, who immigrated here from the Philippines, to the President at a staff party. Ollie is guided by his faith in God and his passion for making a difference in the world. I am not only blessed by the wonderful places in this country I get to visit, but most of all by the many interesting, talented, and passionate people I have the opportunity to meet and work with.