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Farmington student met the President, got a hug

FHS senior Natalie Cherne stands in front of Air Force One, after meeting President Barack Obama Saturday.

This past Saturday was a big day for Farmington High School senior Natalie Cherne. Not only did she have to take her ACT tests, but she also met President Barack Obama.

She was off from school during the state teachers' convention last Thursday, just like the rest of her classmates. But while her classmates were finding something else to do with their break time, Cherne watched her cell phone all day. She was waiting for one message: that she would meet President Obama when he came to town.

Sometime mid-afternoon Thursday, she got the call - she would, in fact, be among the welcoming committee for the President's visit to the University of Minnesota last weekend.

Cherne figured she might have a chance earlier in the week, when she was told she had passed a background check. She's been participating in an internship for Organizing for America, one of Obama's grassroots plans. She's been doing that for just over a year. When news of the President's planned visit came, Cherne knew she had an opportunity.

It took a few weeks for her to get word she had passed the background check - although she knew she would because her record is clean - but once she heard she had been approved, she knew she had won half of the battle. When she got the call Thursday, she was absolutely thrilled.

Friday was a workday, but, the visit was on her mind. She got her hair straightened. She got her clothes lined up. She even went and bought a pair of nylons.

"I probably spent a couple of hours getting ready, and spent a whole 45 seconds with him," she said, "but it was worth it. It was totally worth it."

Reality forced her to come down off of Cloud Nine a bit Saturday morning. The ACTs demanded her time and her attention, which she gave until her test was complete. Then it was off to change clothes, and then to make the drive to meet the President as he landed in Minneapolis.

Her trip up Cedar Avenue only made her more and more nervous. The closer she got to the airport, the more real her plans became. She knew she was going to meet the President.

"For the first time in my life, I had butterflies in my stomach," she said. "I couldn't believe it. I was like, 'this better happen.'"

And it did. She was there, waiting for Air Force One to land. She watched as President Obama exited the plane, waited as he descended the ramp.

Then he was there, face-to-face with Cherne. Shaking her hand. And she was stammering. She stumbled through her words, explaining she was a volunteer and telling the President how honored she was. He thanked her for her work, and gave her a small hug.

She had a picture taken with the President, and in front of Air Force One. She doesn't have the picture with Obama just yet, but expects it will come soon, as it was one of his staffers who shot the photo.

"The President is taller in person than he looks. And he has this certain demeanor. He's not as intimidating as he seems, even though he's the most powerful man in the world," Cherne said.

After he was whisked off and placed in one of a barricade of cars, Cherne found some friends. They drove over closer to the University of Minnesota campus, parked, and walked to the rally. They had to sit in the overflow seating room, but still, she was thrilled to watch his speech.

Cherne is a huge fan of President Obama. Cherne, who has an active love for politics, is more than happy to stand up for her president and his ideals.

"I'm one of the few, but I don't mind being the minority right now. I love politics. Politics have been my passion since I was a kid," she said.

"Watching him come out of Air Force One was a sight. No picture can describe it. I was just in awe."

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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