Monday, April 14, 2008
MUNCIE, Ind. (Associate Press)-- A Rushville woman who had lunch Saturday with Sen. Barack Obama and four other donors to his presidential campaign said the meeting was surreal but one of the highlights of her life.
Bonnie Locchetta, a single mother of three, sat next to the Illinois senator as they ate sandwiches at the Worthen Arena Lounge at Ball State University with four other "low-dollar" donors to his campaign.
"It was definitely one of the top 10 (moments) in my life. Absolutely," Locchetta said.
Two days after Locchetta donated $25 to Obama's campaign along with a short note, she learned she had been chosen to eat a meal with him as part of the Dinner/Lunch with Obama program.
Four other people were flown in Friday from New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New York for Obama's morning speech and then lunch.
The five have contributed a combined $165 to Obama's campaign.
Locchetta, who is the office manager at Main Street Christian Church in Rushville, had donated $25 -- her first campaign contribution to a presidential candidate.
Obama arrived a few minutes after the five were seated, shook hands and quickly urged the diners to relax. He picked up trays of sandwiches from the center of the table and served each of his guests.
"I promise you that I will be eating, because I'm starving," Obama said.
The menu was simple -- a selection of salads, chicken or portobello mushroom sandwiches or hamburgers, with brownies for dessert. Cans of soft drinks were on the table, as were bottles of water and jugs of iced tea.
During the lunch, the five guests took turns telling Obama a bit about their lives, and asked him some questions. After about an hour, it was all over.
"It's surreal," Locchetta said. "It was funny. Once he came in, it was just like sitting down and talking with someone that you've known for a long time. He seems very genuine. It was much better than I expected. He's a very down-to-earth guy."
Well, that's the official version. Of course, I had to go thru and correct the spelling of my name, cause nobody EVER gets that right, but it was much, more more than what they could squeeze into this little article. It was much, much cooler and much, much more....important.
So, as I said before, I made my puny little $25 contribution, wrote a note about how, even though the pundits say I am "Hillary's constituency" I am most definitely NOT, and the next day I get a phone call interview from a campaign staffer. He asks me some questions, says he likes what I have to say, and that he will let me know in the next 24-48 hours if I have been selected. Turns out to be more like 10 hours. The next morning at work, I get another call telling me I am the first "selectee" to be dining with Sen. Obama. My jaw hit the floor. Almost immediately, the phone started to ring. By the time I got home from work, I had messages from the AP, our local Fox, NBC and CBS affiliates, as well as the AP and the local Obama campaign headquarters. I set about returning phone calls and setting up an interview schedule for the next day. Luckily, it was spring break, my kids were home to baby sit their nephew and my bosses were out of town, so my being out of the office for the afternoon was not a big deal.
I did a mini-press junket the next day, hitting 3 local affiliates and doing a phone-in with MSNBC ( I did AP over the phone the night before). I finally get home to relax, and get a call from the other local affiliate, the one who ignored me all day. I even told them, I just drove by your station 3 times today. They said, oh, that's ok, we'll just come to your house. We'll be there in an hour and a half.
WHAT???? I had just changed into comfy sweats and wanted nothing more than to numb my brain with the inanity that is American Idol. Instead, I screamed at the kids and we started panic cleaning. Crap is thrown into closets, shoved into bedrooms, dishes are washed and put away, the cats are vacuumed....One of my best friends, a writer for our local paper, comes over to interview me also, and gets to watch part of the madness. My boyfriend comes in, sees what is going on, takes care of some of his stuff, and high-tails it out of there. Finally, they arrive, do the interview, pull the kids in also, and are really disarmingly great.
Now, the wait begins. Every day, people are calling or emailing and asking, "Do you know? When is your dinner? Have they contacted you yet?" A girl from CBS in NY calls almost daily trying to line me up for the Early Show. I am compulsively checking my email every 5 minutes. Days go by with nothing....I made my contribution on March 24, got the initial call on the 25, the final call on the 26 and press madness began.....now, nothing......
Finally, on Sunday, April 6, an email, stating their would be 4 more "selectees" named on Monday, and that our dinner would probably be on Saturday, April 12, and that it might be in Indiana. Holy crap! I went shopping, of course (still have to take some things back, by the way...) And, then, I waited some more. Found out the names and backstories of those I would be eating with, but still not where or when. That didn't come in its final form until Thursday, April 10. Yup, not only in Indiana, but in Muncie. Everybody else got to fly in, but not me. I get to drive up the road. WEEEEEEE! Oh, well.
This is pretty long, so I will break this into a 2 part blog----how exciting!!!! Back shortly!
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