I am not sure of the date but it was in late March, early April 1998. Bill Clinton as president of the United States came to visit my country Sénégal. He was also to visit Goree Island, an historic site where my boarding school was ( and still is) located. We, as students were supposed to welcome him by singing the Senegalese national anthem while some other students from the Kennedy middle and high school (which is a Senegalese school would sing the American national anthem. As students and teenagers we were so excited because we considered Bill to be a cool president. We were on Easter break but we still came back to the Island to rehearse hard with our music teacher even if singing the National anthem (that we knew by heart since Elementary school) was a no brainer. But everything had to be perfect because we were representing our country to the world ( we knew that all cameras would be turned on us at that moment).
The day before Bill was to come we were sent home with the request to be on time at the port the following day ( our school was on an Island so we had to take a small boat to get there) but also to wear jeans and tees. It was the official dress code that the Music teacher decided.
But my Mother was having none of it. She could not conceive the fact that I had to wear jeans to greet the President of the United States. She was like:" Jeans? To meet Bill Clinton? Are you mad?". She must have thought that I was joking. This was during what she called my rebellious teenager days, during which I liked to wear jeans instead of the cute floral dresses she had made for me. What she did not know was that I was not comfortable in my own skin to rock those dresses and preferred jeans that hid all my curves. Nevertheless, she did not allow me to wear the jeans. Instead she dug out a peach pink tunic dress and some sleek black pants for me to wear. I was furious but what could I do? And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me. You simply did not wear jeans to meet the President.
The following day, I went to school with my classy and sophisticated outfit, my hair all sleek in a bun my Mom helped me with. But upon arriving at the port, I saw a sea of jeans and tees and started to panic. All.my classmates asked me why I was wearing a dress. I told them why, but tried to shrug the unease off. When my Music teacher saw me at the morning rehearsal before Bill Clinton arrived, he was so disapproving. He also asked me why I defied him by wearing something else. And I had to explain myself all over again. He was not happy and as a result, he sent me to stand in the back of the group while previously I was situated in the front row of the choir. I was so mad. I could have cursed my Mother ( maybe I did). All my friends were wearing their tees and jeans while I stood there awkwardly with my pink dress.
Scarf - MG road
Denim Jacket - Just brands
Dress - Sandaga market
Shoes - Westside
Accessories - Clover center
When Bill arrived, there was such a frenzy. Everyone wanted a piece of him. Everyone was in awe with him. But we were told to remain calm. We performed our anthem with such pride and glee. We were perfect. The girls from Kennedy high school, however butchered the American national anthem. It was a bit pathetic to see. But Bill seemed pleased. My Music teacher was beaming and he even managed to give Bill a brooch in the shape of a saxophone. He was in 7th heaven. Bill Clinton did not stay long. He made his speech, listen to others from the Senegalese delegation and moved on to visit the Slaves House which was the real reason behind his visit to the Island, but not before he greeted all my classmates on the front row of the choir. They were overjoyed and squealed like the school girls they were. As for myself, stuck on the last row, I could not have reached Bill Clinton even if I wanted to. Between my screaming classmates and the secret service assigned to protect him, it was a lost cause. We hanged back while Bill Clinton visited the Island then returned to the city. During that time, some of my classmates were interviewed by International news channels like CNN. Some even went as far as to hit on some yummy White House correspondents. I was outraged.
Later that night, when they showed recaps of Bill Clinton's visit on TV( and after failing on seeing myself on TV), I became sad. I did not touch Bill Clinton, I did not get to tell him that I thought he was a great president ( although I did not know much about his work to be honest). I was also upset that I did not get to be on TV, national or international like some of my friends all because my Mom thought it was outrageous to wear jeans to see the President.
To this day, I do not think I got to tell my Mom how mad and sad I was at what she made me do. I hold her responsible for it all. But truly how could I? Is it really that important to be able to touch Bill Clinton? The guy was at that time one of the most influential person on earth but he was also a renown cheater (something I highly disapprove of). Had I touch him, would my life change in any way? I do not think so. Even appearing on TV would not have made any difference at all. Except that instead of writing a blog about the time I could not shake hands with Bill Clinton, I would have written about how probably soft his hands were.
Now when I think of the entire thing, I cannot help but laugh. And I also pray that one day I get to meet Obama and his lovely wife Michelle (as the actual president or not). That is a presidential couple worth meeting in my book ( no shades to Bill and Hillary). And when I get this chance, I still hope I will be in a fancy dress because as much as I love my jeans, my Mother is right: they are highly inappropriate to wear to meet the President.