Brendan G. Corrigan, a second-year Miami Law student who is pursuing a joint JD/MPA degree, served as a volunteer in President's Obama's motorcade on Sept. 20, when the President visited the University of Miami's Coral Gables campus for a television interview broadcast from the BankUnited Center Fieldhouse. (The Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, had taken part in a similar forum the previous day.)
"It was a phenomenal experience, topped off with an opportunity to meet with President Obama," Corrigan said later. This is his report:
My day began at Miami International Airport, where I and the other volunteer drivers in the motorcade met Air Force One in the middle of the tarmac, as the plane carrying the Commander-in-Chief touched down. I was amazed by the sheer size and presence that the plane commanded. Once it landed, there was a fury of excitement as Secret Service agents, members of the press, advisors, White House staffers and the President himself scurried off Air Force One and into their respective vehicles. In a flash, the motorcade was off and racing to the University of Miami, where the President would be participating in a television event sponsored by the Univision network.
The route we took was completely shut down to normal traffic. There was a contingent of local police officers and state troopers – what seemed to be every law enforcement official in all of South Florida – stationed at every intersection and interstate exit along the way. The most surreal aspect of the drive was watching the crowds of people lining the route, eagerly anticipating a glimpse of President Obama inside the heavily fortified presidential limousine.
The motorcade made it to the University of Miami campus, at which point the President entered the BankUnited Center Fieldhouse. At the conclusion of the televised event, I was invited inside the Fieldhouse to greet the President. I was standing backstage with several staffers watching the President on a television screen as he walked off of the stage just a few yards away. As he disappeared from the television screen, he turned a corner and reappeared – this time in real life – greeting us all with an enthusiastic, "Hey, guys!" It was hard to imagine that the leader of the free world was right in front of me.
As I approached the President to have our photo taken by the official White House photographer, I said to him, "Mr. President, it is an honor to meet you." He smiled and asked me what my name was. We shook hands and I introduced myself. Our photo was snapped. I then inquired, "We're going to win this thing, right?" To which President Obama replied, "With your help." I was not necessarily anticipating a certain answer to my question, but was nonetheless taken aback by the humility of the President's response. I grinned, "You've got it. Keep up the hard work, Mr. President." He looked at me with confidence and said, "You know I will."
I was in awe at having the opportunity to shake hands and briefly converse with one of the most transformational leaders of our time.
After loading back into the motorcade and leaving the University of Miami, we made an unannounced stop at a local burger joint where the President, flanked by Secret Service, grabbed a bite to eat and casually chatted with voters. The nearby shoppers and diners were thrilled to have the opportunity to see the President on what they anticipated to be just another normal day in Miami.
Once the President was finished, the motorcade was off again, this time heading back to Miami International Airport, where the President and his entourage got back on board Air Force One. Within a matter of minutes the plane was in the air and off to the next campaign destination.
It was a day I will always remember.