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CPCS graduate with presidential aspirations meets the Obamas


COLTON - While lots of children may grow up wanting to become president of the United States, few of them get to declare that desire in a newspaper profile and then not one, but two graduation speeches.

Even fewer get the opportunity to walk into the White House and meet the president.

Caleb Campbell, a 2007 graduate of Colton-Pierrepont Central School, has done all of those and more, meeting President Barack H. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, not once, but twice.

Mr. Campbell, who worked as a field organizer for an office in St. Augustine, Fla. during the campaign, said his first meeting with the president and first lady, wasn’t really much of a meeting at all, as there was a large crowd of people around, but his second meeting with the president, which came as a surprise, included a little bit of one on one time with both Mr. and Mrs. Obama.

“The staff got to go on a special tour of the White House,” he said, explaining that since he worked for the campaign he was invited to what he had thought would be nothing more than a tour of the White House.

Mr. Campbell said his tour was scheduled for 1 p.m., but with nothing going that morning he decided to arrive early, showing up at the White House as 12:15.

“I was the first one in line, and they let me in early,” he said, adding that he then became a member of another group.

The tour was progressing as one would expect until the group walked into a room and the doors closed behind them.

“They shut the doors and then the secret service showed up,” he said, realizing at that point he was going to have another opportunity to meet the president.

Looking back on the day, Mr. Campbell said that as he was waiting in line, he should have been thinking about what to say when he met Mr. Obama.

Instead he was regretting how he hadn’t taken a shower that morning, in anticipation of doing so after picking up his tuxedo for the staffer’s ball that evening.

“I kept telling the secret service guy that I didn’t shower, and he said, ‘I doubt he’ll notice.’”

After finally getting his face time with the president, Mr. Campbell said the exchange ended up being a humorous one.

“When I met him I shook his hand and told him my name was Caleb and he said, ‘Nice to meet you.” That’s when I said, ‘I’m trying really hard not to freak out,’ and he patted me on my shoulder and said, ‘Don’t freak out. You’re doing fine.’”

Mr. Campbell said he was able to calm down a little bit and then the two briefly conversed about the campaign.

“He knew I worked in Florida and said, ‘Thanks for helping me win Florida,” Mr. Campbell recalled, before moving on to also have a brief conversation with the first lady, a conversation that included a bit of fashion advice.

“I had a beard at the time and I wasn’t sure if I should shave it before the staffer’s ball, so I asked her if I should keep it or shave it and she said to keep it,” he said.

With that piece of advice, Mr. Campbell said he attended the ball without shaving his beard, and while he has trimmed the beard several times since then he said he has no plans of getting rid of his beard any time soon.

“I’m never shaving this beard again,” he joked.

While working in Florida, Mr. Campbell also said he had the opportunity to meet Vice President Joseph R. Biden as well as introduce him at a rally in Florida.

As Mr. Campbell was waiting for Mr. Biden to arrive, he said he was going over logistics for the event with a few members of the secret service. However, just seconds before Mr. Biden arrived what was once just a few members of the secret service quickly grew into a full entourage of more than a dozen agents.

“There was just three of four and then just like that there was at least 15,” he said, adding his encounter with the vice president was also a memorable one.

“He walked up to me, punched me and said, “You must be Caleb,” Mr. Campbell recalled. “I was shell-shocked that he knew my name.”

Mr. Campbell, who lived in Parish as a child before moving to Colton, told Mr. Biden, who attended Syracuse University, that he was from the Syracuse area, giving them something to talk about before they both went on stage for the rally.

After graduating from Colton-Pierrepont, Mr. Campbell attended Hobart, where he was a political science major. Before the campaign began, he was living and working in Washington D.C. for a polling firm, but that all changed when he received an email soliciting applications to work for “a campaign.” He applied and less than 24 hours later was offered a job, which he took, by the Obama campaign.

While working in Florida, Mr. Campbell said it wasn’t unusual for him to tell people that he one day wanted to be president.

“I joked that he was holding the seat for me,” Mr. Campbell said, adding that he also declared his intentions of becoming president while delivering commencement addresses at both his high school and college graduations.

When asked is he still had presidential aspirations, Mr. Campbell responded, “Oh yeah, absolutely.”

Mr. Campbell has again returned to Washington D.C. and is currently looking for his next job.

He is the son of Carrie Whalen, Colton; and has a twin brother, Nathan Campbell and sister, Eve Whalen. Eve is a sophomore at Colton-Pierrepont Central School, a place that Mr. Campbell said he still holds dear to his heart.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my teachers from Colton-Pierrepont,” he said.

A video of Mr. Campbell’s encounter with Mr. and Mrs. Obama can be found on YouTube, with Mr. Campbell appearing at 26:15 into the clip.

On the web:

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