PEN&INKee^POSSIBILITIES: The lessons from Obama’s Rio Rancho visitee^

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By Kirsten Laskey

Until last week I had never met public figures or celebrities, although years ago I watched Scott Hamilton walk out of an ice rink in Littleton, Colo.

Not only had I never sighted any stars, I have not attempted any correspondence to the rich and famous. The only fan mail I ever sent was part of a class assignment in middle school. Being a novice ice skater, I asked for Kristi Yamaguchi’s advice on a figure skating jump. Months later, the response I received did not answer my question. I felt a little annoyed and decided not to put too much stock in celebrities. They just did not seem to care.

Turns out I was wrong.

A few weeks ago, Christine Lardner of Albuquerque explained to a crowd of thousands that her family had a problem with their credit card company. She and her husband used the card to pay for two of their children’s college educations. When the college mistakenly put a charge on the card, which set them over their limit, the company upped the Lardners’ interest rate to nearly 30 percent.  Some of us might have just roared to anyone within earshot, but Lardner decided on a different route. She turned to the President of the United States.

And he answered.

President Obama’s response was to travel to Rio Rancho High School and explain his plan of action in dealing with credit card companies’ negative practices.

As a member of that crowd, which spilled out all over the high school’s gymnasium, I was riveted by Lardner’s story.

Of all the public and powerful figures, I assumed the federal government was the biggest depository of unanswered letters and never-returned calls. I reasoned that the weight of their responsibilities and the vast number of correspondences discouraged them from answering each and every letter.

So to hear that the President, the biggest enchilada in the nation, actually traveled out in person to give his response to an e-mail, astonished me.

What made his attendance even more mesmerizing was that I saw President Obama with my own eyes. I practically vowed to never wash my eyeballs again.

I have looked at pictures of him in magazines and watched him speak on TV, but nothing compares to seeing the President in the flesh. He seemed as personable as someone’s friendly next door neighbor.

It wasn’t just seeing Obama that made this event so spectacular, it was all the extras that went along with it.

I gawked at a reporter whose tag revealed he worked for Time magazine and I watched protesters rush toward Obama’s car holding posters declaring their stance on various issues.

I basked in my luck to be an observer to all of this, but mostly I felt aglow knowing that individuals of power and influence, who seem so distant, not just in location but in circumstance, are closer to the average Joe and Jane than I thought.

They are aware and they do care.