Women visit White House ceremony

Published 10:59 pm Friday, June 10, 2011

Suffolk residents Ruby Walden, left, and Sarah Walden attended a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday. They witnessed President Barack Obama greeting dignitaries for a state luncheon.

Four Suffolk women were among a group of senior volunteers that traveled to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday at President Barack Obama’s invitation to be present when he greeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Sarah Walden, Ruby Walden, Janice Walden and Mildred Jones were seated on the White House grounds mere feet from the dignitaries as the motorcades arrived at the historic residence, Sarah Walden said.

Though the women were notified about three weeks ago that they might be able to go, they did not get the final approval until Thursday afternoon, she said.


Email newsletter signup

“It was such an exciting experience I will never forget,” Walden said. “You see these things on television, but you never get to witness the ceremony in person.”

The women were escorted to the front row of the crowd and watched as the president and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed guests for the state luncheon, including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Merkel.

“We were escorted to the front, almost within touching distance of the president,” Walden said. “We were just so elated that we were able to go as well as get that close to him.”

The women were among a group of six Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia volunteers who were invited. Sarah Walden also works there as the retired and senior volunteer coordinator for Suffolk and Franklin.

The women took pictures and video of the entire ceremony, but unfortunately never got to shake the president’s hand.

“He shook a lot of hands, but he never came our way to shake our hand,” Walden said, noting Obama was mostly greeting the military units.

For Walden, it was the first time she had been on the White House grounds. Her sister-in-law Ruby Walden, however, had been there and taken a tour. Some of the volunteers also were seen on television.

“We didn’t realize we were going to be treated so royally,” Walden said. “It was an honor.”