Ms. Bonacci Goes to Washington

Ask me what I did last week. Go ahead, ask me.

Okay, if you insist. I went to the White House. I was, in fact, invited to the White House. No, I didn’t have tea with George and Laura. But I did receive a message from the President. And I think I got one from God, as well.

Background: several weeks ago, my office received a call from someone asking me to attend a “Catholic Leadership Conference” in Washington DC, which I turned it down. The next week, a friend told me he was going to the White House for the Catholic Leadership Conference. He asked if I’d been invited. “No. Maybe.” The White House? I turned down an invitation from the White House? 

So I picked up the phone. “Oh, yes, we’ve been waiting for your RSVP. And were you aware that a local couple have offered their private jet to anyone attending the conference from Denver?”

And so I went to Washington – in the loveliest private jet you’ve ever seen.

“Now tell me one more time -- why am I going to the White House?” No one seemed to know exactly, except that we’d be attending some kind of high-level briefing on Iraq. “It’s about time,” I thought. “We girls who talk to teenagers about chastity need to be kept in the loop about these things.” The President probably wouldn’t be there. Maybe Condi Rice would be there. Maybe not. Nobody really seemed to know.

Whatever. I just wanted to see the Lincoln Bedroom.

We stayed at the loveliest of hotels. The Hay-Adams. It’s in this month’s Architectural Digest. Page 202, I believe. Check it out. I didn’t want to go to sleep. I just wanted to sit up and stare at my beautiful room.

Walking through the metal detectors, any concerns I may have had about White House security vanished. The woman manning the line did her job very well. I was actually afraid of her. I did my very best “Soup Nazi” side step, and made it through without causing any commotion.

We were ushered into a very small auditorium-style room. It had a little stage, a small podium with the presidential seal, and about 100 or so seats. After a brief introduction, Condoleezza Rice’s chief of staff addressed us. He spoke for a half hour or so, on the administration’s national security policy. Then we took a break.
At the end of the break, a lady’s voice said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States!”

And there he was.

Right there --three rows away from me. This might be an everyday occurrence for some inside-the-beltway types, but for me, it was amazing.

And he didn’t just “pop his head in.” He spoke to us for over a half hour. No speech, no notes – he just talked to us. The gist of his message was this – the he desperately wants a peaceful solution in Iraq, that he’s working very hard for a peaceful solution in Iraq, that he’s praying for a peaceful solution in Iraq. But he also believes that time is running out, and that Iraq must be dealt with soon, before Saddam Hussein has the opportunity to do harm to the United States.
Honestly, I was very impressed.

After the President left, some poor administration guy had to follow him and give another talk – the details of which of course I don’t remember. And then we had a nice lunch and we were back on the jet.

Which is where the message from God came in. Landing in Denver, I changed into my sweats, climbed into my car, and drove to Denver International Airport. I parked in the remote lot, flung my suitcase onto the shuttle bus, endured a security “wanding”, boarded my flight and took my center seat in the back of the economy section. After transferring to a puddle-jumper in Minneapolis, I landed in Grand Forks, South Dakota at midnight. I rented a car, drove an hour in the dark cold, and claimed my room at a motel in Crookston, Minnesota.

I had to laugh. I really did. I thought about the previous Sunday’s reading. “I know how to live in humble circumstances; I also know how to live with abundance.” (Phil 2:12) It’s as if God was telling me “It was a nice treat, but don’t get used to it. This is your real life.”

But it was more than that. He wanted me in Crookston, Minnesota. He wanted to use me to reach teens and youth ministers at an absolutely fabulous youth rally there. He also, for reasons I still don’t fully comprehend, wanted me at the White House. And so He made both happen.

It’s not up to me to finagle important invitations. It’s not up to me to seek luxurious accommodations. My job is to ascertain where He wants me to be, and to be there.

Sometimes it’s elegant. Sometimes it’s simple. But it’s always good.