A 12-year-old Vincentian student who lives with his parents in Brooklyn has had the rare privilege and opportunity of meeting United States President Barack Obama after the child had written the president four years ago congratulating him on his election.
Asante Alexander, 12, a Grade 7 student at Meyer Levin Intermediate School 233 in Brooklyn, told Caribbean Life that meeting the most powerful leader in the world and the first U.S. Black president was an experience “beyond my expectations.”
“Meeting President Obama is a great experience,” said Asante, who, through the United States Chief of Protocol, Amb. Peter A. Selfridge, and his wife Panita, was able to meet Obama at his hotel room in midtown Manhattan, on Sept. 29, on the margins of the 70th Session of the just-concluded United Nations General Assembly Debate in New York.
Asante’s mother, Silvina “Gen” Crichton-Alexander and father, Fitzlyn “Omari” Alexander are Vincentians living in Brooklyn.
The Alexanders have another child, Fayola, 20, a student at Brooklyn’s predominantly Black Medgar Evers College.
“I thought he was just going to shake my hand and leave,” said Asante about meeting Obama. “He spent some time with me, although he had all the leaders around the world waiting on him.
“What a wonderful feeling that would definitely stay with me forever!” beamed Asante with excitement. “President Obama is a great inspiration for me.”
Asante – a soccer enthusiast, who represented Central Brooklyn Soccer Club in a tournament in Dubai in April, and has earned several Black belt degrees in Taekwondo – had written Obama in September 2011, when he was a seven-year-old student at Langston Hughes Public School 233 in Brooklyn.
At that time, Asante congratulated Obama on becoming the nation’s first Black president and hoping to meet him in Brooklyn.
“I have read a lot of books about you, and have educated myself to the fullest,” Asante wrote. “Many of the books I read made me want to help people.
“I like the way in which your mom taught you as a child to become a great person,” he added. “I know you fulfilled Martin Luther King’s dream by becoming the first Black president [of the United States] and bringing everyone together.”
The slain Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was considered America’s greatest civil rights leader.
“So I will like you to fulfill my dream and come to Brooklyn, so that I can see you in person and tell you what a great man you are,” Asante continued.
In responding, Obama thanked Asante in a letter dated Dec. 13, 2011.
“I am continually inspired by the enthusiasm and bright ideas of young Americans, and I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with me,” the president wrote. “One of the things I can do as President is to make sure your tomorrow is as bright as it can be.
“Young people like you are America’s future, and whether we fall behind or race ahead as a Nation will depend largely on your generation,” he added. “As you grow and learn, remember that our country is counting on you to be a dedicated and hard-working student.
“I encourage you to set your sights high, aim for excellence in all that you do, and try each day to improve the lives of others in your community,” Obama continued. “Thank you, again, for your message. I wish you all the best.”
While meeting with Selfridge in New York, Obama recalled Asante’s letter and invited him to his hotel.
Asante said he was in disbelief when his dad woke him up at 5 am on Sept. 29 and told him that he was going to meet with the President.
“I thought he was joking,” Asante said. “I thought he was just waking me up for school.
“I went to my mom’s room, and I asked my mom if it was true that I was going to meet President Obama,” he said. “She said ‘yes’. We had to be there for 8:00 a.m.
“At the moment, I was in shock,” Asante added. “I quickly took a shower with cold water, so I could wake up because it was very early.
“When I got out the shower, I asked my mother what I was wearing,” he continued. “My mom suggested that I wear my school uniform.”
As a collector of books about Obama, Asante said he took a magazine and a book about the President with him.
Accompanied by his parents, Asante said they took the subway to Manhattan and went to the hotel where Obama was staying.
When they arrived at the hotel, Asante said he got “a little nervous” because he was “surrounded by many security guards [Secret Service Officers] and police officers.”
He said his mom approached the officers with the letter, “and we got in.”
While in the waiting area, Asante said he “stood up all that time” because he “did not want the president to come in the room and see me sitting.”
“When I met the president, I felt joyful, shocked, blessed, happy and, at the same time, nervous,” Asante said.
He said President Obama shook his hand, and he told him, “What a great man he is.
“He read my letter again and said to me ‘dream big,’” Asante said. “And I said, ‘I would, thank you’. Then, I gave him my magazine, and he autographed it and gave it back.”
Asante said the most memorable moment was “when he touched my hair and said, ‘You look like Kid ‘n Play.’”
According to Wikipedia, renowned as the free encyclopedia, “Kid ‘n Play” is an American hip-hop act from New York City that was popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The duo comprised Christopher “Kid” Reid (April 5, 1964) and Christopher “Play” Martin (July 10, 1962) working alongside their DJ, Mark “DJ Wiz” Eastmond, Wikipedia said.
Besides their successful musical careers, they are also notable for branching out into acting, Wikipedia said.
“My body ran cold; it was amazing,” said Asante about his extraordinary meeting with the president of the United States.