Erin Kotecki Vest Meets Senator Barack Obama, Part One

There is a story behind the BlogHer interview you probably don’t know. Several, actually.

-I wasn’t supposed to be doing the interview.

-I shopped at the Eugene, Oregon Target at 8pm Friday night for camera-ready clothes, notecards, and hairspray.

-I met the Senator from Illinois in the hallway of Roseburg High School while he was on his way to use the rest room. I know this. He told me so.

It all started somewhere around Wednesday when I had a good idea BlogHer was about to land this interview. BlogHer contributing editor Kim Pearson would be asking the questions and I would be producing. Which means I could be in the room but on the sidelines, hopefully meeting Obama but not worried about the pressures of on camera.

Friday afternoon, en route to Eugene, I got a call:

‘Kim’s flight is delayed, she may not make it out. You need to prepare to do this interview.’

My mind switched gears and I started to plan.

How well did I know the questions?

What clothes did I bring?

Crap I haven’t had my hair done in weeks.

Oh my gawd I haven’t had a pedicure in longer.

What if I ask all of them by category and don’t make it to the last category?

Should I split them up? Jump from Iraq to the Economy and back?

I’m very sure my roots are showing.

I wonder if they have a mall near my hotel.

I need to review those questions closer.

I then landed in Eugene and the status of just who was interviewing the Senator was still up in the air. Or on the ground in Newark, as the case may be.

I decided to head to the nearest Target and see if I couldn’t figure out an outfit and a strategy for getting through 12 policy questions in 7-10 minutes on the campaign schedule.

I wondered if those 7-10 minutes included him getting set up with a mic? Us chatting quickly before hand to make sure we were ready? Did it start when he sat down and tape rolled? Did it start when he walked in the room? What if he was late?

I clung to the campaign’s promise of 10 minutes and plotted my question priority as I rifled through solid colored shirts at Target that were NOT white or black (you know, like everything in my suitcase).

Throwing things in the cart I moved on to shoes (I had black shoes and flip flops) while I went over all 12 questions again in my head, reminding myself to google when I got back to the hotel ‘Obama stance on public transportation.’

I didn’t want to prioritize the blogher community questions with everything he’s already said on record. I wanted to at least try to get him to speak about some of the issues we don’t hear every day.

I then grabbed a pack of waters and some trail mix, knowing Treina ( the make up artist) and myself might be trapped in Roseburg all day with who knows what available. I also grabbed a bottle of wine and an extra pack of gum.

This interview was not a surprise investigation by us. We’ve had these questions on the record since the BlogHer conference last July. So I knew this was not going to be a ‘follow up question’ or ‘on the spot attack’ type of interview. That helped. Back in the day I would have been plotting 40 follow ups and 40 different takes on those follow ups depending on his answers. This was a simple Q & A of well known questions. So while I was back in my hotel plotting just how to do anything with my root-showing, not hair-cut in 6 weeks, hair -it occurred to me the best thing to do was to prioritize each question in each category and go with the flow of the interview and hope I didn’t have to cut him off.

I’m sorry Senator but you are being entirely too long winded and I only have 10 minutes here, so let’s move on.

Then at 10pm pacific Kim called from Salt Lake City. She was turning back around to Newark, and I was sprawled on my hotel room bed-furiously writing BlogHer’s questions on notecards.

I went to sleep knowing I would wake up Saturday morning, drive an hour and a half with my semi-polished toes and stringy-hair, and sit down and chat with the man who could very well be our next president.

I called my family. I sent out a few emails.

Then I quietly sobbed in my stale, hotel pillow.

I cried for joy at my opportunity, sadness over the stress I knew my kids and family were dealing with, and I cried to relieve myself of any emotion I had over what was about to happen.

Part Two, tomorrow. I scream, I cry more, and I meet a senator.


  1. Erin, you so rock. that was just the most awesome interview, and to know that you did this on the spur of the moment makes it even more impressive.

    and your hair looked fine. not a big fan of the sweater, but, i can understand how it would have looked like the answer, in that Target, at that hour 🙂

  2. And, imagine, after all that stress, he’s just Barack. A dude in a dress shirt without a tie, hangin with you, a representative for BlogHer, to find out what you/we wanna know. After all that, he probably had no clue about your roots, didn’t even look at your toes. Did you show him your toes? Just so you know, I wasn’t thinking about your hair or your looks.

    I *was* thinking, there are two real people talking face to face. I *was* thinking how approachable he looked, how comfortable you both looked. (even though I know damn well you were screaming with delight inside, you’re only human.)

    The fact that you’re a real mom worrying about your roots showing, what to wear, etc. says something about how an interview should really be. In my opinion, it should not be some lip-glossed, made-up, legs hanging out, hawt young pinup girl on the news spoonfeeding it to us. I’d rather see a real person asking the questions. Funny how the traditional media trains us to want to look like that to the point of an anxiety attack. (I know I would personally fall victim to it.)

    I can only imagine all of the excitement of this opportunity. I can also imagine the major disappointment Kim must have felt knowing she lost the opportunity due to travel problems. I would have been cursing out loud! I’m sad for her, but excited for you and just overall excited for the opportunity BlogHer had to interact with such a compelling personality.

    In the end, I’m sure you were getting by on the notion of “Yes we can. Yes I can.” And now, just look, now you can say “Yes I did.”


  3. I love that you’re sharing this sort of thing with us. Having no idea what goes on behind the scenes, it’s interesting to see how you went from one of my bestest, silliest friends, to interviewing the next president.
    When I watched that video, my thoughts ran through pedicures, making guacamole and swimming in your pool to OMG ERIN IS INTERVIEWING OBAMA and I am SO proud. SO fucking proud. You were so calm and amazing. I’m in awe.

  4. You are just so awesome, there’s nothing more to that. You looked so calm and put together, the before hand rush barely showed through.

    I swear I couldn’t be more envious if I tried.

  5. Wow. So many emotions. But you were amazing during that interview. Of course Senator Obama was too, but I kept looking at the joyous expression on your face. The excitement was oozing from your smile. 🙂 SO damn cool.

  6. I love the behind-the-scenes notes! None of the stress or rushing come through in the interview, only your preparation. You represented so many folks so well.

    I’m sad that Kim Pearson couldn’t be there, too, and I hope Professor Kim will have an opportunity to speak with Sen. Obama at another time.

  7. What a great post – I LOVE these kinds of posts. Thanks for writing it 🙂

    I interviewed Obama in June 2006 with a group of Ohio bloggers and it will always stand out for me as one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had.

  8. Well none of that showed in the interview (hair looked good, even – and I couldn’t see your toes so…
    It all sounds so familiar from my own TV “back in the day” and I’ll bet the adrenaline kicked in and set you on your way just fine. You sure looked like it! We were all so proud.

  9. This is really incredibly awesome (and not valley girl awesome but greatest thing ever awesome)! What an amazing opportunity!

  10. The behind-the-scenes stuff is hilarious. You did a great job fitting in all the questions in a ridiculously short amount of time. Nicely done!

  11. Thank you for the interview. You did a great job! In fact, when I saw the interview I made a note to myself how incredibly calm you were when you acknowledged that his answer led into the next question. I’m sure I would have had to stick to the cards so badly I couldn’t say anything unrehearsed.

  12. Wow. This is absolutely fantastic! I’ve been an understudy and gone on with 24 hours notice so I feel you a wee bit. But I was never talking to the next (fingers cross) president! Dang. More more more please!

  13. I just KNEW that was a Tarjay sweater LOL. You did such a great job. And now I know why you were so focussed. You knew he had to pee!

  14. This is awesome, Erin.

    I would have cried in my pillow (and probably peed my pants), but you came across with grace and flair.

    Well done!

  15. This is why I’m letting the gray grow out and won’t color beyond maybe some highlights in the future. I cannot take one more stupid demand in my life!

    Congrats, Erin, ya done good….

  16. You seemed so cool and collected. VERY professional. It makes me so proud to be a part of the Mom Blog World!! It also shows those of us who left careers behind to follow our dreams of being Moms, that we can still have an important impact on the world at large.

    And your hair and clothes were fine. But I would have been more panicked about that than the interview – I totally get it. When I met Bill and Hill a few years back I was so worried I had lunch in my teeth that I hardly remember the conversation.

    Obama seemed like an wonderfully normal guy you could hang out and talk sports or politics with over coffee or a beer. He appears passionate yet controlled.

    The BlogHer team had excellent questions and you did a very good job at getting at the answers.

    And to think, you have just met our next President.


  17. Great post…Thanks for sharing all the additional information.

    I thought you did a GREAT job!!!

  18. If he can’t handle a few un-dyed roots, he doesn’t deserve to be President! 😉

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