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Obamas invite Tigard teacher to White House

by: submitted Kathy Briggs

One Tigard woman is getting a special present this holiday season: She is heading to the Washington, D.C., for a special dinner with President Barack Obama.

Kathy Briggs, who teaches music at St. Mary's Academy in Portland, got the news last week that she had been selected to attend a holiday dinner at the White House on Dec. 14.

'It's a very big honor and I am really excited,' Briggs said from her classroom at St. Mary's on Monday. 'I have never been to Washington, D.C., before.'

But this isn't the first time that Briggs has gotten to speak with the Obama family. On Nov. 17, Briggs sat in on a talk with First Lady Michelle Obama for a 30-minute discussion about women and politics.

People across the country could call in to listen to the conversation or watch it online, Briggs said.

The teacher had heard about the talk ahead of time and submitted a question to ask Michelle Obama.

'They called me and asked me to read my question to her,' Briggs said. 'People called in from all over the country.'

Briggs, who has worked at the all-girls Catholic high school for six years, asked the First Lady why it was important for young women to vote in next November's presidential election.

'I follow politics pretty closely,' she said. 'Being a woman myself and working at a place like St. Mary's where we are all about empowering young women, I thought it was something that I would be interested in doing. For many of my students, the November election will be their first opportunity to vote.'

Briggs said she was nervous about talking to the First Lady and found out later that more than 12,000 people listened to the call.

'(Before the call) I was thrilled and nervous and when I was on the phone getting ready to speak to her I was really nervous,' she said. 'But once I heard her speak it just switched over to being excited. It was a really awesome opportunity that I had.'

In response to her question, Obama said that it was the civic responsibility of young women to be involved and vote because as young women their vote would help shape their country.

'She talked about how for young people especially, this election is important,' she said. 'She also touched on the health care reform that has gone through, and what that means for especially women's health care and some bills going through about student loans and other things the president is trying to pass to make student loan debt more manageable.'

Briggs said she was so excited she missed some of the other questions after hers.

'After I got done I was taking deep breaths,' she said. 'I was so excited about the whole thing.'

Briggs said she thought the First Lady's answer was a good one.

'One of the things she said that I thought was good to emphasize was that no matter who your candidate is, it is important to be informed and to vote,' Briggs said.

A few days after her call with Michelle Obama, Briggs said she received a call telling her that she had been selected to take part in the upcoming holiday reception at the White House.

Briggs said she wants to shake hands with the President and First Lady at the reception.

'It doesn't matter who you support, it's incredible enough just to get to shake the president's hand,' she said. 'It's a very big honor for me, and I am really excited.'