Long lines, drizzling rain and stringent security checks didn’t deter hundreds of people from turning out to Michelle Obama’s sole planned book signing at a Washington, D.C., Barnes and Noble this morning.
Fans ranged from simply curious to impassioned, but all were determined to get a few brief seconds face-to-face with the first lady as she signed their copy of her first book, “American Grown.”
Obama took a few minutes to address the crowd that filled the Barnes and Noble by the time she arrived just past 11:30 a.m. “The book is really not just a story of the White House garden and how it came to be and how we’ve had our trials and tribulations, but it’s also a story of a community of gardens across the country, everything from a wonderful community garden in Hawaii … to some excellent school gardens that are happening right … smack dab in the middle of New York,” she said.
The first lady, 48, then began the signing by honoring the 10 local children – five from Bancroft Elementary School and five from Tubman Elementary School – who have helped her with the garden, saying, “We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Aside from those 10 guests of honor, however, attendees had to jump through hoops to meet Obama. Brandee Worsham of Maryland took time out of her schedule both last week and this morning to attend the signing. Last Thursday, interested attendees prepaid for their copies of “American Grown” Thursday and received wristbands that served as their tickets into Barnes and Noble this morning.
Despite the long waits – some were in line as early as 7 a.m. to snag a prime spot on top of Thursday’s lines – Worsham said it was worth it. “I thought it was a great chance both to meet Michelle Obama and to support her book,” she said.
Some of the visitors, like David Do, stuck out. Amid a mostly female and middle-aged crowd, the recent college graduate stood on 12th Street in the rain today in order to thank the first lady. Obama spoke at Do’s commencement exercises at the University of California-Merced in 2009, and he was one of 18 students who got to meet with her.
“Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign really motivated me,” Do said.
After his meeting with Obama, Do began eating healthier and, as of six months ago, dropped 75 pounds. With a framed photo of himself with Obama in hand, Do stuck it out in the rain for the chance to meet Obama again and thank her in person.
Mckenna Dunbar, like Do, came to thank Obama for serving as a source of inspiration. “I’m here to see Michelle Obama and tell her about my garden,” she said.
The local schoolgirl cultivates a garden with her family, growing tomatoes, strawberries and mint, among other produce. Nadra Dunbar hopes that her daughter’s chance to speak with Obama will serve as an inspiration to her classmates. “Now she gets to go back to school, to her classmates, and encourage them to eat healthy,” she said.
Obama’s message has managed to reach children not only in the D.C. area, but also far beyond the borders of the United States. Jennifer, Christina and Melanie Nelson of Munich, Germany, waited in line with their mother for hours to meet the first lady. The girls, whose family recently moved to Washington, wanted a chance to say hello to the first lady “so we can tell all our friends in Munich,” 11-year-old Christina said.
For some, however, the first lady’s appeal is in her accessibility, not her superstardom. Emma Osborne, another patient middle-aged woman in line, had a ready answer for why she’s a fan of Michelle. “She’s such a genuine, caring person,” Osborne said. “When she’s up there, she’s not playing. It’s genuine.”
And, maybe, there was an even simpler reason for some. “It’s not every day you get to meet the first lady,” Worsham said.