On the morning of April 24, I woke up at 6:30 a.m., a bit exhausted but excited for the busy day to come. My family and I arrived at the checkpoint area at the White House and awaited confirmation of my status as an approved member of the press. For a while we had to wait for ID clearance. Once confirmed, we passed through security and waited for an escort to take us to the White House briefing room. On the news, when you first see the briefing room, you think you will enter a large room filled with fancy equipment. Surprisingly, the room was pretty small and kind of cramped with tons of other news personnel, including French press for this particular day. Some of the people in the media were super friendly and welcomed all of us when we entered. Someone even kindly took a picture of my family and me at the Briefing Room podium where Sarah Huckabee Sanders takes questions from the press. There were times during my visit to the White House when staff would ask me if my family and I were here for a West Wing tour as they were not used to seeing young people as reporters. On the whole, though, we were treated kindly and respectfully.
After waiting for a few minutes after 9 a.m., members of the press, including famous White House correspondents like John Roberts from Fox News, who graciously took a photograph with my family and me, were all escorted to the South Lawn for the arrival ceremony of the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, to the White House. We then waited for the large, black vans to come, bringing Macron, his wife, and other French dignitaries. In the meantime, elegantly dressed soldiers followed their instructor’s commands; some soldiers marched with flags and some held bayonets. When Presidents Trump and Macron arrived with their wives, they said a few words to each other quietly that no one was able to hear. They then stood for their respective national anthems; both presidents then gave welcoming speeches to the large crowds. President Macron spoke in French with a translator interpreting his speech in English so the crowd could understand. The presidents then proceeded to circle around the large crowd, reviewing the assembled military; then they went on top of the balcony and waved a final goodbye to the people standing out on the South Lawn. When the Presidents were walking to the West Wing, they were swarmed by media like mosquitoes swarm people.
Later on, the press had to wait a whole hour until finally the White House let us into the room where the press conference was to be held in the East Room. I gained a lot of respect for the press, since they usually have to wait a long time for events. We all then proceeded into the White House and into the East Room. Everyone then began to take their assigned seats, waiting for the leaders to enter. It was very exciting when they told me that I could sit in the second row, wearing headphones so I could hear the interpreters translate Macron’s French into English. I could not believe that I was only a few feet away from President Trump and inches away from Kellyanne Conway, John Bolton, Vice President Pence and his wife, and several other Trump cabinet members. Once the leaders entered, everyone stood up in respect for them. When the Presidents spoke, the room fell silent, but when they were taking questions, everyone wanted a shot to ask a question. I rose my hand, hoping I would get a chance to ask a question, but, unfortunately, the two Presidents only took two questions each—two from the American press and two from the French press. If I had the chance to ask Macron a question, it would have been, “In light of the events in the recent past, do you have any words of reassurance for all the Jews living in your country that are scared for their lives?” Since we had a couple of hours until the next event, we decided to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol building, ending the tour by meeting Jim Jordan (congressman from Ohio). A couple of hours later, we were fortunate to return to the White House to get a glimpse of the state dinner from outside. Standing on a shaky scaffolding across from the front of the White House, we waited in the rain for President Trump and Mrs. Trump to greet President Macron and his wife to the state dinner, which was the first state dinner for the Trump White House.
This experience was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. It made me inspired to combine two of my favorite interests of politics and journalism. I want to thank KSM (KidScoop Media) for this amazing opportunity.
By Matthew Paley, KidScoop Media correspondent, age 12
Matthew/Mordechai Paley is from Teaneck. KidScoop Media was founded by Michelle Mayans in December 2008 to make young people’s voices a part of the national conversation. KSM connects its youth journalists with politicians, celebrities and luminaries in a variety of fields.