The last time Illinois State junior Carly Halstead sat down with Barack Obama, the two of them were alone in a basement office in Peoria, eating their sandwiches at lunch.
He asked the eighth-grader how school was going, what she wanted to do when she got older and if she has any interest in politics.
She told him no, she really wasn’t interested in politics.
But she must have made an impression because every time her dad, Billy Halstead, the Democratic Party chair in Peoria, has run into the president since then, he’s asked about Carly. During a White House reception Monday, November 4, she’ll have the chance to tell him what she’s been up to.
She and her dad were invited to a ceremony for the Chicago Blackhawks in celebration of their second Stanley Cup title in four seasons. Although he doesn’t have any ties to the Blackhawks organization, he’s known Obama since he was an Illinois senator.
When her dad called to ask if she could go to the event, she told him she couldn’t miss her group presentation in class the day after the event. She emailed her professor, who quickly gave her the OK.
And that’s when her dad told her to go out and do some shopping for a new dress. Mom, being a bit more practical, told her she had clothes she could wear. Dad won out and the two of them headed out to D.C.
Not only did Carly have a new black dress and heels to pack, but she folded an Illinois State University sweatshirt she plans on giving her lunch buddy. But she won’t ask the president about her dad’s belt.
During that 2008 Peoria visit, the Democratic nominee had forgotten to pack a belt and borrowed her dad’s.
“I asked him if he ever got the belt back,” Carly said. He didn’t, but told her it didn’t matter.
Carly has another association with presidents. The business major works on campus in the Office of the President at Illinois State. She’s low-key—so low-key that she told supervisor Julie Barnhill she wouldn’t be able to work Tuesday, and then just happened to mention why.
It’s Carly’s first trip to Washington, D.C., so the pair planned on doing a little sightseeing. But it’s the big event she’s most looking forward to.
“I love going to events with my dad,” she said. “And I love dressing up and meeting people.”
In classes when Carly has to introduce herself and mention an interesting fact, she has an easy one.
“I tell them I met the president.”
And she hopes to again. Although she’s not sure what she’d talk to him about, she knows one thing she wants to say as she hands him the Redbird sweatshirt.
“I want to invite him here.”
Maybe even to lunch.
Kate Arthur can be reached at kaarthu@IllinoisState.edu.