November 5, 2009 11:03 AM
The last sitting President to visit Madison didn't have a plane. This one had a very big plane, which pulled to a stop in Madison right on time (The commander of the 115th Fighter Wing, Col. Joseph Brandemuehl told me that Air Force One is never more than two minutes off schedule). It was fitting that he came here to give a serious policy speech about education and that he visited a Madison public school with both high diversity and high achievement. And it was an honor to host the President one year after his election. All in all, it was an experience those kids - and most of the rest of us - will never forget.
At the school the President did trip a little on the pronunciation of my name. But this is his third attempt and he's getting closer each time. And here's the thing. When the President of the United States mispronounces your name you don't think 'gee, I wish that guy would get it right.' No. You think, 'gee, the President tried to pronounce my name.'
This job has its long days and its share of difficult stretches but once in awhile you get a moment that is just undeniably cool. As we waited for President Obama to walk down the stairs from Air Force One, I was thinking about the last time I was at that spot. It was exactly five years ago when I got a ride with the Colonel in an F-16. Taking a flight in a fighter jet or greeting the leader of the free world qualifies as one of those times when I take a moment to thank the voters of Madison for giving me the chance to be there on their behalf. This is not a job that lacks interesting days, but yesterday is one I'll remember long after someone else gets the honor of saying, "Welcome to Madison, Mr. President."