The White House and Backwards

Happy Autumn to you all!  Time is continuing to fly by and summer has officially left the building and I am really feeling it from the couch in my parents’ house in Minneapolis.  I had another action-packed two weeks leading up to my departure for Minneapolis on Saturday, and I am here now in the motherland for another week before heading back to New Jersey for what seems to be a little down time in October.  But I’ve had some pretty big days and nights of late and met some pretty important people, first in Washington DC and then in Philadelphia.

The White House Visit

An event I’ve been looking forward to since we returned from London.  I was eager to book as many events and appearances as I could this fall–as long as they didn’t conflict with the White House visit.  I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Olympic Team White House visit in 2008, and remember it as being one of the highlights of my return from Beijing, so had high hopes for this year’s event as well.  It didn’t disappoint.
Aside from my flights in and out of DC being delayed 2.5 hours (it’s a 35 minute flight), the weekend was a huge success.  I arrived at the hotel on Thursday evening beyond excited to reunite with a large number of my rowing teammates, as well as getting to see many of my Team USA friends from other sports (specifically, other resident athletes from the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista).  It was just like the first day of school all over again–you separate us for more than a week and we go beserk when we get to see each other again.  I got to room with my favorite team trip roomie, Adrienne Martelli, and after collecting our official White House visit Nike outfit, we did a quick change and headed out for the Team USA reunion at Union Station.
The reunion was a great time–basically a food/drink/social free-for-all that allowed us to roam the wide open spaces of the venue while enjoying the company of our Team USA friends and colleagues.  I was in heaven.  Somewhere in the middle of the night, I passed my Canon T3 to Scott Gault & co. and said a prayer.  The camera came back to me at 3 am with about 600 photos on it.  But that’s a different post.
The next morning we were up and on the buses 6:20am.  We proceded to the White House, got through security, had a quick cup of coffee and a muffin on the White House lawn, and then were briefed on the morning.  Basically: we got to sit/stand on the bleachers for remarks from the First Lady Michelle Obama, then from President Obama, and then if we were lucky we would get to meet the President.  So we filed on to the bleachers by sport, battling fatigue, sleep deprivation, dehydration, and wondering who at Nike hated us so much that they had us forced to wear wool and leather letterman’s style jackets for this event on a 75 degree day.  In the end, the event was an incredibly moving experience that was everything I had hoped it would be returning four years later.

In 2008, I distinctly recall having no desire to shake hands with former President George W. Bush.  I stood back and watched my USA Teammates greet him, and I enjoyed the experience from there.  But I do remember also thinking to myself: “I hope I can come back here in four years and meet Barack Obama.”  Dream realized.
The President, Vice President, and First Lady all took the time to greet every member of the 2012 US Olympic and Paralympic delegation individually with hugs and handshakes.  Their generosity, kindness and strength were incredibly inspiring, and hugging the President is a memory that will last a lifetime.  I didn’t get to say much to any of them, but I did get to say what was most important: “Thank you for all that you do for us.”

Backwards Movie Premieres

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I first heard from Philadelphia City Rowing’s Elle Carolan several weeks ago regarding an opportunity to spend some time in Philadelphia around the release of the rowing film, Backwards. The original invite was to participate in a series of events from September 20-22 that would both promote the film, and serve as fundraisers and support events for Philadelphia City Rowing.  Almost immediately Adrienne and I were in–and it turned out to be a very good decision.  I had a wonderful time being a part of the celebration of the release of the film and getting to know the PCR organization.
The week got off to a great start with the world premiere of the film at the Crosby Street Hotel in New York City.  It was a small event–maybe 150 people altogether–but included myself and Olympic teammates Susan Francia, Caryn Davies, and Sarah Trowbridge.  We had a short red carpet reception (sans actual carpet) before the screening, viewed the film, and then proceeded to the after party which included movie theater candy, champagne and a taco truck (my kind of party).  We got to meet many of the people who either starred in the film (yes, including James Van Der Beek and Sarah Megan Thomas) or who were instrumental in the creation or production of the film.  It was a fun night that allowed me to pretend for about six hours that I live a much more glamorous and exciting life than I actually do.

Article in the UK Daily Mail with paparazzi red carpet photos

But the next morning, it was right back to business, getting back to Princeton in order to turn around and get packed for three days in Philly as well as my weeklong trip home–and then picking up Adrienne from the train station before heading out the next morning to start our next phase of Backwards celebrations. Thursday night included a black-tie gala at the Philadelphia Art Museum.  We stupidly walked the 1/2 mile from our hotel to the event in our heels and while I didn’t actually–I was prepared to collapse when we arrived.  I don’t care what anyone says, endurance in heels is a true athletic feat and I failed to perform, big time.
I had a lovely time on Thursday night looking completely glamorous with a different set of USA Teammates that included Esther Lofgren, Adrienne Martelli and Sara Hendershot.  Between the film, taking photos, and socializing with the cast and crew the evening was over far too quickly and it was on to Friday to prepare for the Philadelphia release of the film at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute.  Friday’s event was really special because not only was it the public release of the film, but it also served as a fundraiser for Philadelphia City Rowing–which was sold out.  It was great to meet so many more amazing people who were so enthusiastic about the sport of rowing, the success of PCR, and the success of Team USA in London.
Finally, on Saturday morning after a quick visit with Temple Women’s Rowing, we all had a workout at Vesper and then proceeded to Bachelor’s for a Women’s Rowing Discussion Panel for the kids of PCR.  The panel included 2008 and 2012 Olympic Team Members, as well as women from the era of the induction of Title IX, and we spent the morning discussing the sport and doing Q&A with the kids.

Row2k photo gallery of Thursday black-tie gala at Philadelphia Art Museum

Overall, though I didn’t get a lot of rest last week and definitely didn’t have time to get many workouts in, I had a great time spending time with new people and continuing to work to strengthen ties between the National & Olympic Teams with the athletes and families who are the foundation of our sporting community.  Ensuring that programs like PCR have the resources and support that they need to introduce the sport to kids who need it most, while helping to promote Backwards and the sport of rowing to a mainstream audience was incredibly rewarding and so much fun.  I hope that more people are able and willing to support PCR and Backwards this fall.

I want to send big thank yous to Elle Carolan and Tony Schneider at PCR for their generosity and warmth in getting us present and organized this week.
And an ENORMOUS thank you to RENT THE RUNWAY for just having a phenomenal service–I loved my dresses and they looked amazing.

Now more work to be done before hurtling headlong in to my hometown celebration later this week with events in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota Boathouse, and homecoming events at St. Croix Falls High School on Thursday and Friday.  I am so looking forward to connecting to the people in my hometown communities who helped to start it all.  Can’t wait!  If you are in the Twin Cities/Western Wisconsin area, I hope to see you!

Long Live the Dream,

–MK

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