The Inaugural Slippers
This was originally written in April 2016 as my first Toastmasters speech introducing myself.
Do you remember where you were on January 20, 1989? I do. I was an 18-year-old freshman at George Washington University; a fresh transplant from a small town in Western Massachusetts to our nation’s capital. I was standing on the grounds of the Capitol Building. It was Inauguration Day and I was watching George Bush Senior take his oath of office. I was so close, I could clearly see the faces of our newly elected 41st President and the First Lady. It was the first election I voted in, and although I voted for the other guy, that didn’t dim my excitement. It was so cool to be living in DC where the local news was national news, and to be among a crowd on one of the biggest days of the year in Washington? Simply spectacular!
After returning to my dorm room from the ceremony and the presidential parade that followed, I heard rumors that President Bush would be giving the first White House tour the next morning. It was open to the public, first come, first served. To be in Washington such a short time and already have an opportunity like this. I was going down there no matter what I had to do! My friends, one being my future husband, and I decided to go down to the White House early evening and camp out in line all night so that we could be a part of that tour. We packed up our things. And the first thing I grabbed were my favorite slippers. And these weren’t your run of the mill slippers. These were knee-high, loud print, thick, wool slippers with leather moccasin soles. My hippie slippers. Ugly but oh so warm.
Not my actual slippers but similar.
Remember, this is Washington, D.C. in January. Snow was on the ground and temperatures at night routinely dipped below freezing. Although, as I said, I’m from western Massachusetts, cold weather and I do NOT mix. I despise temperatures below 74 degrees. The cold chills me deep inside and makes me shiver so hard I can’t even speak. Yet here I was mid January, volunteering to spend 10-12 hrs sitting outside in freezing temps, in the snow, on the chance that I might get to meet the President. I’ve got goosebumps thinking about it now.
We headed down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and snared the FIRST spots in what would become a huge line. My saving graces that night, those ugly slippers and a public bathroom. I spent many hours that night in that restroom, warming up under the hand dryer. I emerged from the bathroom one last time the next morning only to find they had released the line and my friends were gone! I took off running to catch up. While I was running down the security hallway (things were different back then) I realized I still had on my slippers! I had planned to change them, but now…
Too late. There was no turning back. I ended up on the White House lawn with my friends. I was chosen for the second tour. It was pretty routine until the tour turned a corner and there they were. George & Barbara were in the room shaking hands with everyone. I had given up on meeting him and couldn’t believe it. It was my turn next and first I shook President Bush’s hand and congratulated him. I’m not sure what I was expecting but he just seemed like a nice, regular man. Then SHE took my hand and said to me words all these years later I can’t forget, “Thanks for stopping by my house sweetie. Nice slippers”. I was telling this story to my son and daughter the other day and it still makes me smile.
I wouldn’t be surprised if those old slippers are in a box in our garage attic somewhere. I like thinking they are around still because they are my silly reminder of an important moment in my youth. A time when taking a chance, following my heart and going for it paid off. You see in many ways I’m still that same girl. I get full of excitement for new experiences and dive right in. I am passionate about what I do and want to do and what I believe in. And I am willing to do what it takes and put myself out there and get a little uncomfortable to achieve it. Because I KNOW something memorable will happen.
Jill Lebofsky is the Amazon best-selling author of the book"No Sweat! It's Just Menopause: Eating , Exercise and Essential Oils For A Healthy Change". Jill has been a women's wellness coach for 15 years and is known as the "Midlife Mojo" Coach, helping women in their 40's, 50's & 60's to live healthy & happy from the midlife years and beyond. Jill lives in South Florida with her husband of 20 years, two teenager and their flat-coated retriever puppy.