February 10, 2009 |

Teen meets Ms. Obama during campaign

Mount Oliver resident Larry Hailsham Jr. had the opportunity to talk with Michelle Obama at Soldiers and Sailors Hall during a campaign stop.

Larry Hailsham Jr. knew what he was getting involved with when he applied to be an intern for the Barack Obama presidential campaign last August.

The 15-year old Mount Oliver youth had already helped out during the primaries with door-to-door canvassing and phone work. He did more of the same as an intern and relished one perk. The young African American student got to meet Michelle Obama when she visited Oakland before the election.

"Everyone's faces lit up when she walked into the room" at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in October, Larry said. "She was poised, beautiful and down to earth. She walked down the line and said ‘Hello.' There were no cameras, no media. She looked and acted the same as she does when you see her on stage."

He noted her graciousness when someone stumbled over their choice of words and she said, "That's okay."

Larry enjoyed all the political work he did after school and hopes to hold office some day. He wants to go to college and major in political science.

"There are ups and downs with everything. Sometimes someone would call up and be mad and take it all out on you. Or you'd give out VIP tickets to somebody and they'd be happy and you'd feel really, really good," he said.

Larry attends the City Charter High School downtown. His parents are Larry Sr. and Jeannette Hailsham and his sisters are Amanda and Melanie, who has a son, Elijah.

He has been inducted into the Urban League of Pitts

burgh's National Achievers Society and participated in the Congressional Youth Leadership Council.

Most of his friends favored Obama for president, 10 percent wanted other candidates and 10 percent didn't care.

"He's a new type of politician," Larry said. "He's transparent. Not everything goes on behind closed doors. He is going to make it easier for young people to get to college. I know that is a problem that I am going to have to face."

In comparison, Hillary Clinton seemed "tense."

"The connection just wasn't there," his mother Jeannette said.

He thought Mr. Obama was "outgoing and soft spoken."

After the polls closed on Election Day he attended a "watch party" on South Side to follow the returns and found it amazing to see co-workers from all over the city present. Of course, everyone was jubilant on hearing the results. "It was a really great experience."

He regrets not meeting Mr. Obama. He was supposed to be introduced to him along with other volunteers at an event in late October but his cell phone wasn't working and he missed out.

He saw the Inauguration when he and many other students attended the five-day Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference. They were housed in Virginia and met for the conference Jan. 17-21 in Washington D.C. where they heard speakers like Colin Powell and Al Gore talk about the importance of perseverance.

The youths saw the Inaugural speech along with the crowds via big screen and loudspeakers. Although he is enthusiastic about the new president, Larry admits the speech wasn't one of Mr. Obama's best.

"It could have been more captivating. But he let everyone know that ‘it's game time.' He's there to get the big things done. He's here to help our country."

"What I got from the whole thing was a sense of never giving up. Barack Obama had his skeptics. There were people who said he couldn't do it. But he kept on chugging."

"I'm very proud of him," his mother said.

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