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Saint Patrick's High School, Keady, Co Armagh

The Barack Obama Experience

20th Jun 2013
The Barack Obama Experience

The students who met The Obamas on Monday at the Waterfront share their experience with us...

I woke up at 4am on Monday morning; I was very excited and had had hardly any sleep. I had to get ready quickly as the bus was leaving school at 5am. We arrived inBelfastafter 6am and had to wait outside the Waterfront for Ms McGuckian to arrive with our tickets. We were waiting outside in the rain for just under an hour when we finally saw Ms McGuckian standing with the security guard, tickets in hand. We got our tickets and realised they were yellow which meant we were VIPs. We were whisked past the queue of thousands and straight to security which was much the same as airport security.

When we were waiting in line at security Eryn and I were interviewed by a lady working for the Daily Mail. She asked us how we got to be here and what we hoped to come of the G8 Summit. When we went through security we were directed to the VIP lounge where we could get tea, coffee, water and food. We were then escorted to the VIP section and were very excited to be sitting amongst such important people, like politicians.

A woman approached us and told us she was with the Whitehouse Staff. She told us we had 20 minutes to ‘Get ready’. We were all confused as to what we had to get ready for and she then told us that we would be standing on the stage behind President Obama. It was very exciting being escorted on stage in front of everyone in the audience. We had to stand throughout all the speeches and it was very warm but it was definitely worth it. Michelle Obama stated that we, the youth, were the most important people that they would speak to on their visit, as we would be the future leaders of the country. President Obama inspired us to have hope, telling us that ‘Hope is contagious’, meaning that if others see that we are hopeful, they too will have hope.

At the end of President Obama’s speech both himself and his wife came over and shook everyone on the stages hand. It was a very surreal moment and I couldn’t believe it actually happened. When we left the Waterfront we were approached by another journalist, this time from the Belfast Telegraph. When we finished speaking to her we made our way toVictoria Squareand had our lunch. We then got back on the bus and everyone was wrecked- most fell asleep on the way home! When we arrived back at school just as last period began, everyone told us they had been watching us on television and they had seen us shake hands with the President and the First Lady of theUnited States. It was such a crazy day and one I will remember for a the rest of my life.

Dearbhla Murphy 11/12

I found the whole experience on Monday very overwhelming; to actually shake the hands of both President Obamba and his wife was incredible. I found it hard to believe that I was actually standing on the same stage as one of the most powerful men in the world at this moment in time. The first lady’s speech were very inspiring, and I hope her request to make change inNorthern Irelandand achieve permanent peace will be a really. This is one experience I will never forget.

Daire Jones 11/23

I woke up at 4am on Monday morning; I was very excited and had had hardly any sleep. I had to get ready quickly as the bus was leaving school at 5am. We arrived inBelfastafter 6am and had to wait outside the Waterfront for Ms McGuckian to arrive with our tickets. We were waiting outside in the rain for just under an hour when we finally saw Ms McGuckian standing with the security guard, tickets in hand. We got our tickets and realised they were yellow which meant we were VIPs. We were whisked past the queue of thousands and straight to security which was much the same as airport security.

When we were waiting in line at security Eryn and I were interviewed by a lady working for the Daily Mail. She asked us how we got to be here and what we hoped to come of the G8 Summit. When we went through security we were directed to the VIP lounge where we could get tea, coffee, water and food. We were then escorted to the VIP section and were very excited to be sitting amongst such important people, like politicians.

A woman approached us and told us she was with the Whitehouse Staff. She told us we had 20 minutes to ‘Get ready’. We were all confused as to what we had to get ready for and she then told us that we would be standing on the stage behind President Obama. It was very exciting being escorted on stage in front of everyone in the audience. We had to stand throughout all the speeches and it was very warm but it was definitely worth it. Michelle Obama stated that we, the youth, were the most important people that they would speak to on their visit, as we would be the future leaders of the country. President Obama inspired us to have hope, telling us that ‘Hope is contagious’, meaning that if others see that we are hopeful, they too will have hope.

At the end of President Obama’s speech both himself and his wife came over and shook everyone on the stages hand. It was a very surreal moment and I couldn’t believe it actually happened. When we left the Waterfront we were approached by another journalist, this time from the Belfast Telegraph. When we finished speaking to her we made our way toVictoria Squareand had our lunch. We then got back on the bus and everyone was wrecked- most fell asleep on the way home! When we arrived back at school just as last period began, everyone told us they had been watching us on television and they had seen us shake hands with the President and the First Lady of theUnited States. It was such a crazy day and one I will remember for a the rest of my life.

Dearbhla Murphy 11/12

The day began with an early rise of 4am; we had to be at the school for 4.50 because the bus was leaving forBelfastat 5am. Everyone arrived on time, and we were all exhausted. The feeling of excitement and nerves overwhelmed everyone; it was a very nerve wrecking journey, there was security everywhere.

We arrived outside the Waterfront after 6am and there was already a queue. Miss Mone then informed us that we would be waiting until 7am as Ms McGuckian had got the tickets.

As we were standing waiting the UTV camera crew arrived and they were interviewing people, and suddenly they came over to us and asked us where we were from, why we were there and how we got the tickets etc. they then interviewed Dearbhla and took shots of our school crest and us which the journalist said would be on the news later that night.

By this time, we saw Ms McGuckian at the entrance and we discovered that our tickets were yellow coloured, which meant we were VIP and we got to skip the queue and go straight through security, which was like that of an airport checkpoint, Thomas had to take his boots off. We got some water and tea when we went in. then a man directed us to our seats, we weren’t sitting down long, when a woman from the Whitehouse came over and told us we would be going on stage with Obama during his speech. Excitement overwhelmed us all, as we all panicked to fix our uniform and hair.

About half an hour, we were directed onto the stage with some other schools and we were got to stand directly behind the podium where President Obamba would be making his speech. The light and the heat in the room was a lot to over come and then on top of that getting to shake hands with Barack Obama defiantly overthrew it! The security was so tight as there were men in suits everywhere, watching every single person!

Everyone sat and waited for a short while as the DJ played music, interacted with the crowed and updated us on Obama’s whereabouts. Then around 9 o’clock everyone stood up as an American voice announced a girl, Hannah who won the competition overall. She read out her essay on how to achieve peace inNorthern Irelandwhich was the competition Dearbhla also entered and got the tickets for us to be there. Hannah then introduced the first lady, Michelle Obama the crowd cheered loudly as she came on stage. She was even more beautiful than everyone had imagined. In her speech she described how she and Barack had came from poor backgrounds which really surprised me, she emphasized that the most important people in this country was the youth of today and that the future depends on us.

She then introduced the President of theUnited States, her husband Barack Obama once again the crowd went wild! He began to talk about the past and of the Good Friday Agreement and how the past doesn’t define our future. He also added some humour talking about teenagers hanging around asking each other ‘what’s the craic?’ He really inspired me to want to change and thatNorthern Ireland’s future depends on us, the young people who want to bring about change. He also emphasized that anything is possible, he had achieved his ‘American dream’ like in the book “mice and men” and we can too if we believe in ourselves. His speech was very inspirational and I will never forget it.

His speech ended and he brought his wife Michelle back on stage. They walked to our side of the platform and started to shake hands with everyone. What really surprised me was how friendly they both were. They both greeted everyone individually and Michelle said to me ‘Well done you guys, it’s so warm up here I’m glad you made it’. This was the highlight of the day for me, as we could tell the crowd was so envious.

We all exited through the side doors and out to the front of the Waterfront again. Some pictures were taken and we were interviewed again by the ‘Belfast Telegraph’. We then went to get food which Ms McGuckian so kindly paid for, before getting back on the bus to come back to school.

It was such a great experience and a once in a life time chance. I’m so thankful that I got the chance to do it and I will never forget the day I got to shake hands with the first black President of America and the most powerful and famous man in the world President Barack Obama

Eamai Crowe 11.10

My trip to the Waterfront Belfast on 17 June 2013, was a worth while and never to be forgotten experience.  It was hard to believe that I was standing behind the President of theUnited States of America, Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama. Once Michelle was introduced to the stage I couldn’t believe that it was her but once Barack Obama strolled onto the stage I was in even bigger doubt.  Both of their speeches were inspiring and had an impact on me as an individual.  Barack demonstrated how the situation was similar to the one inAmericaand showed that black and white separation was no different to the segregation inNorthern Irelandtoday, between Catholics and Protestants.  They both share the same view that young people are the future and that it is up to us as well as the government to see that the peace lasts.

Once Barack and Michelle Obama walked towards me to shake my hand he said, “Hey, how are you?” and once I shook his hand the first thing I saw was his smile.  They both automatically came across as friendly, happy and genuine people. A memory a will cherish for ever.

Josephine McGeown  11/ 10

It was an early start for us, up at 4 o’clock, had  to be at the school by 10 to 5 in the morning, but it was worth it. On the journey everyone was exited and happy on the bus, the whole way despite our early start. We arrived at the Waterfront around 6.15 in the morning. As we were waiting outside the Waterfront loads of armoured land rovers and police officers could be seen everywhere. We got out of the bus and then the waiting game started, we were waiting for a long time outside the Waterfront for Mrs McGuckian, who had our tickets. While we were waiting the UTV news crew and a reporter came up and started to ask questions to Dearbhla about her essay. When we finally located Mrs McGuckian she was inside already and we were then informed that we had V.I.P tickets, so we could bypass all of the queues, it was brilliant no more waiting around. When inside we got some coffee and could mingle with the MLA’s and other important people before we went to our seats. After about ten minutes we were told that we would be going on stage with President Obama, I couldn’t believe it, it just didn’t seem real. I was extremely excited and then when the time came, we where ushered on stage and arranged so we were all mixed through different schools. It was very warm on stage; a DJ called Pete Snoddden was playing,  there was spotlights and camera crews everywhere we looked, it was a little daunting and then I was put right at the front that was scary but I was still really excited. Then a giant Mexican wave started around the audience and Mrs McGuckian and Miss Mone joined in that was funny to see and then the DJ stopped and shut down and a girl called Hannah Nelson aged 16, came on stage and read a speech she had written, as she finished she introduced Michelle Obama and the place erupted in claps and cheer; the First Lady gave a wonderful speech about what she expects from the teens of Northern Ireland and she then introduced a “person that travelled with her there” the president of the United States Mr Barrack Obama. The place erupted again, I couldn’t believe that the most powerful man in the world was standing just a meter away for me, a little girl from St Patrick’s High School, Keady. I thought his speech was amazing and the audience burst into laughter when he made the comment “wats the craic?” The speech was quite inspirational, all in the audience seemed to hang on every word, when he finished speaking he turned around and both he and his wife shook hands with everybody. It was amazing I actually shook hands with Barack and Michelle Obama. When we got outside the Waterfront we got our photo taken with Professor Eamon Phoenix, who Miss Mone and Mrs Mc Guckian knew. Then a journalist with the Belfast Telegraph interviewed us. Afterwards we were taken to Frankie & Bennies for food by Mrs McGuckian, it was brilliant, while there we were informed that our whole school had been watching live the whole event and we were told it was all over the internet. Our mobiles were going mad with text messages from people saying they had seen us on TV, it was surreal.  I got a message from my sister inDenmark. We then got back into the bus and went home, it was then that the tiredness set in, everyone was falling asleep and we made it back to the school for last period. We all had an amazing time: thank you Mrs McGuckian for the food, Miss Mone for taking us and Dearbhla for the opportunity.

Eryn Murphy 11 /10

Monday was a fantastic experience! It was truly inspirational; it has motivated me to evoke encouragement in bringing peace toNorthern Ireland. The best parts were getting to skip past every one in the long queue because we had VIP tickets and being on stage with the man him self Barack Obama! All thanks to Dearbhla! Monday was an unforgettable and fantastic experience. I still can’t believe it actually happened!

Shannon McGuigan 11/12

Personally, I thought that this was an awe-inspiring trip. To meet one of the most powerful men in the world, shake his hand, and ask him “How’s it going?” is an experience that one isn’t likely to forget in a hurry. Waking up at 4 in the morning to get ready wasn’t overly nice, but hey it was worth it! While I can’t say much for the journey there, the arrival was ravishing - 20 police Land Rovers on patrol and nearly 1000 people standing in queue was a sight to behold. A sight that didn’t last long though, since our nigh-on “VIP” tickets allowed us to cut straight to the front. We were taken up to the front of the stage, in front of thousands – hell, MILLIONS if you include the worldwide audience of the news – and we had to stand for what seemed like an eternity. After eyeing up various people backstage in suits carrying various weapons such as G36s and pistols, I decided best behaviour was probably best. Then, to a thunderous uproar, Michelle Obama walked on stage, with a presence rivalled only by the main man himself. And, to be honest, my favourite part was the food afterwards – it’s hard to beat going to an expenses paid trip to your favourite restaurant. I’d love to do it again, and will jump at any chance to do so!

Thomas Pattison 11/40

It was a brilliant experience which I thoroughly enjoyed. I had to leave the school at 5 o’clock. When we arrived in Belfast we waited for an hour for Mrs Mc Guckian, by this stage there was a long queue but because we has yellow tickets we got to skip it. We could hear people in the line saying “who are they” we were then taken into a VIP lounge where we were told that we were going on stage, we couldn’t believe it. It turned out to be a long stand but it was worth it. When the President Barack Obamba and his wife were speaking we were standing just behind them,  listening to their inspirational speeches. The press photographers from around the world were continually clicking their cameras. The highlight at the end was that we all got to shake hands with the President and his wife. The whole experience was very inspiring, it was a once in a life time experience that I will never forget, all thanks to Dearbhla.

Shane Donnelly 11/23