Dinner with Mrs. Laura W. Bush

Canlis Restaurant

A few weeks ago, while minding my own business, I received an email with a subject line that read, “Dinner with Mrs. Bush in Seattle.” I thought, “oh no, here we go again.”  Prior to this, I had deleted several emails supposedly sent from distinguished individuals with a plea or a request for money & thought this was one more to add to my collection of SPAM mail. It was a quick glance at the from field that dissuaded me.

To my surprise I quickly discovered that Mrs. Laura W. Bush was in fact interested in having dinner with recipients of  funds from the 21st Century Librarian Program on Monday June 6th, 2011. Since I, along with 3 other PhD students were recipients of funds from this prestigious program, that meant us. Aside from the four (4) of us, there were two professors & the dean and his wife. Because most of the logistics were taken care of by Mrs. Bush’s office, all we had to do was show up. Based on the small number of people invited, it is safe to assume that it was designed to be intimate. You may be wondering if it was indeed an intimate affair. Read on and you will soon find out.

You may be thinking that this discovery sent me jumping for joy, and that I posted it on all possible social networking platforms ( Twitter, Facebook, etc), and was unable to sleep with anticipation. It was actually the complete opposite. Although I was honored to be invited to break bread with Mrs. Bush, I was quite composed and frankly didn’t speak much about it. Perhaps it was because I have so many articles to read and lots of writing and re-writing to do (the life of a PhD student).

At some point in time we were informed that would be having dinner at Canlis Restaurant. I had never heard of it, but it was supposed a high-end spot with some amazing food (I must admit, it was deliciously good). On the day of, I hitched a ride and arrived to Canlis early and proceeded to the penthouse. Along with several other colleagues we made sure everything was in tip-top shape. At about 7:29 PM the guest of honor, Mrs. Laura W. Bush appeared at the top of the steps. She came to us greeted everyone and we bombarded her with salutations. The conversation went in many directions, covering topics like our interests and the transformation that libraries are going through.

We stood together for about twenty (20) minutes. During this time, several notable things occurred (I will only list a few). First, I noticed and commended Mrs. Bush for coming to dinner with her UW colors on, which she said was just a coincidence. Next, a waiter brought a platter with the most scrumptious shrimp sautéed in some sort of sauce (Kudos to the chef). Somewhere in between all of that, Mrs. Bush told us what I thought to be a funny story describing how she’s come to adore the iPad. The story went like this:

Mrs. Bush has always an avid reader. There came a point when reading became harder for her. She mentioned a European work that proved especially difficult. So much so, she wondered if alzheimer’s was beginning to settle in. At some point after this she purchased an iPad and like magic reading became easier and enjoyable again. Consequently, she came to the conclusion that she was NOT suffering from an early stage of alzheimer’s, rather, she was going blind (hahaha) 😀

If you didn’t find that funny, you should have been there. Moving on B-). The last notable thing I’d like to mention was that in middle of answering a question posed by Mrs. Bush (who said it was okay to call her Laura) I found the energy to let out a burp 😀 . What did I do? Laughed about it, and proceeded to finish answering. Soon  after, Mrs. Bush suggested we proceed to the table and so we did.

Off topic: What I ate:

  • First course: The Canlis Salad – Romaine, Romano cheese, bacon, mint, oregano, and a dressing of lemon, olive oil and coddled egg
  • Main course: Grilled King Salmon, with white asparagus, green asparagus and parsley with some extra spices added
  • Desert: Chocolate Covered Chocolate: molten chocolate cake, cocoa nib shortbread and chocolate-covered salted caramel ice cream

The food here was exceptional. The desert was memorable, however, there’s a spot in Manhattan that Canlis should get tips on desert from.

Back on topic

While at the table people spoke with each other as well as with Mrs. Bush. The first topic of discussion was what circumstances brought each of us to the University of Washington’s Information School. It was during this time that I learned many interesting facts and about hurdles and obstacles that different people went through. It took quite a while to get to me because we went off on the most satisfying tangents. The question forced me to think back in time, to recall events, comments, feelings, that contributed in some way my desire to pursue a doctorate’s in information science. One thing that I talked about was an instance in high school where my principle asked me, “Are you scared of success?”

For many years, I have struggled with the meaning of that question. Thinking about it brought up many more questions. Amongst them was, what gave them the idea that I was scared; how are they defining success; & of all the people they could have asked that question, why Lassana Magassa. Interestingly at the end of the evening, I arrived at one possible interpretation of the statement. Perhaps, they felt like I had potential, but was sabotaging my chances at arriving at “success.” Moving on.

From there several other topics from families to children. To end this entry, I will retell one of them. The story was conveyed by the Beverly Cleary Professor. So the story goes like this,

While the storyteller was growing up, the big thing was to play music for children because it does so much for their development. As such, she played Beethoven for your son ona regular basis and so anytime it came on he would know. One day they went to visit some friends. While there, they friends put on some music. The storytellers son immediately got up and ran to the radio and screamed, “Beethoven, Beethoven.” Her friends looked in amazement, trying to figure out how he knew that it was Beethoven playing. Of course they concluded that he was a 2 (or 3) year old genius. They didn’t know the storyteller played it regularly for her child.

Well, that’s all. In closing, it was a wonderful night, full of stories, laughs and fantastic food. Although you weren’t there to enjoy any of that, hope you enjoyed my recollection of the affair.

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