When you get an email from the White House inviting you to attend an event for innovators, entrepreneurs, change makers, geeks, and humans working for social good you are immediately doubtful that your president is emailing right?
Which is why I immediately opened it up and was delighted to find out I had been invited to attend the inaugural South By South Lawn event by the White House. I was nominated out of thousands to attend an event that would be at the White House on Monday, October 3rd in Washington DC. It would be an interactive discussion featuring change agents, filmmakers and musicians modeled after the famous South By South West (SXSW) event in Austin, Texas.
After filling out necessary security information, I went about my business. Working to drive change for my consulting clients and my passion project: Girlmade, an organization that coaches young women to think like entrepreneurs. The days flew by as I anxiously awaited my ‘boarding pass’ from my White House Point of Contact. The entire process was surreal as I hadn’t been to the White House since I was a State Department intern in the 90s.
The day was perfect. The sun was shining with a few picturesque clouds in the sky as I walked into the East Wing of the White House to receive my attendee badge. On the way in, I met journalists, female founders, a mother of a young filmmaker and her brother, an astronaut and an Instagram advocate. It was incredible to meet so many passionate people working to make the world a better place. From empowerment to volunteerism to enterprise learning, for me, it felt like home. What I mean by this is when I spoke to people about ‘training future lady bosses’ they immediately ‘got it’ and said. Fantastic. Where are you based, do you have partners and how can we get involved. The energy level in all conversations was very high and I never felt like I was ‘being sold’ on a concept or product. Rather we were all in awe of the experience of being at the White House to learn, share and connect. Throughout the day, we had delicious food, wonderful musical performances and fantastic art and interactive activities we could engage in from the Innovation Stage to the Maker Space.
One of my favorite quotes from the celebrity, Common was that he was proud to be at the White House amongst all the “Difference Makers”.
I was asked to get on film for the Case Foundation launching their #FacesofFounders Campaign that launched earlier in the morning along with the Starbucks #updstanders film project. If that wasn’t enough, we had an opportunity to listen to Leonardo Di Caprio moderate a panel with Dr. Hayhoe, Climatologist speak with President Obama about our environment. It was an open air setting where we all sat and listened intently to the dialogue. We had one woman scream “Happy Anniversary” to the President as before he got started and it felt like a very intimate and casual conversation. The Lumineers played for us an engaging show and then we were sitting on checkered blankets on the lawn with the Washington Monument in the background for the Premiere of Leonardo Di Caprio’s new film: Into the Flood. It felt much like an outdoor / drive in film in the safest place in the world. I felt at peace and I felt at home. I was home.