In 1742, Thomas Gray (pictured below) coined the phrase, ignorance is bliss. I prefer to say a little naivety and three pecan pies will take you anywhere you want to go!
This week, I will get in my new Nissan Rogue warmly called the roller skate, drive an hour and a half to the Pepsi Center in Denver to be a guest at Michelle Obama’s presentation to the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. That’s pretty cool. The even cooler part of the story is that I will embrace my precious friend and former Washington D.C. roommate Melissa who I have not seen in twenty-five years. It is a miracle! Melissa worked for the Obama’s during the Obama administration and now works with Michelle Obama.
Melissa and I met during a summer college internship program. It was love at first sight. She was unlike anyone I knew. She was from a distinguished Chicago family, Jewish, well-educated and well-traveled. Melissa was scheduled to work for a democratic congressman. I was from a distinguished family in rural Valdosta, Georgia and partially from a less distinguished, poor, country family in Moultrie, Georgia. I worshipped in a Southern Baptist Church. My education consisted of having fun in high school and going to the closest possible college to my home. I obtained a position in the office of a republican congressman from Georgia.
I knew nothing of politics. At the ripe young age of seventeen, I developed a crush on a young man from Valdosta who worked in Washington, D.C. I just had to get to D.C. to be near him. That was the extent of my political drive.
I found and applied for an internship program for the summer of 1986. I mean, why not me? At first, I was not accepted into the program due to inexperience and a nonsensical, rambling essay. Hello, I knew nothing! Not to be put off, I contacted the manager of the program, an energetic, handsome New Yorker, and begged to resubmit my essay. He had mercy on me and said these magic words,
“If you’ll bring me three homemade pecan pies from Georgia, I’ll let you into the program.”
Hell yeah! That was a no-brainer for me. My cousin and I stayed up all night, the night before I my departure, and made three Georgia style pecan pies. I proudly carried them onto the airplane in a brown Macy’s bag all the way to the U.S. Capitol. That internship led me to Capitol Hill,the White House, and to so much more.
Melissa and I were roommates and dear friends. I learned early on that Jewish people do not buy Christmas trees and have tree trimming parties but again, who knew? We chose different paths in life and seeing her again this week will be a highlight for us both. The beauty in this story is at such a young age, I did not see a limitation and I did not receive a limitation. I receieved freedom to do exactly what I wanted to do. I did not see less-than. For me, privilege was not the only mechanism to success.
I showed up innocently, 100% myself in my yellow skirt and pink top, delivering pecan pies as a gateway to a wonderful life.