TIGARD - One local woman is back after spending part of the holidays with President Barack Obama at the White House.

'It was so amazing. It was so fun and such a thrill,' said Tigard resident Kathy Briggs.

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

Briggs was among several volunteers and community leaders from across the country invited to the White House for a special holiday reception.

'It was very beautiful. It took my breath away,' Briggs said. 'The White House is beautiful on its own, but to see all the Christmas decorations was incredible.'

More than 30 Christmas trees decorated the White House, including an 18-foot-tall tree with cards to military families written on it.

The reception's theme was 'Shine, Give, Share,' in honor troops and veterans, Briggs said.

Briggs and other guests filled out messages for servicemen and women stationed overseas.

Briggs said she was surprised how much the White House felt like a home, rather than a museum.

'It wasn't like Versailles,' she said. '(There they have) signs everywhere saying 'Don't touch.''

In November, Briggs participated in a conference call with First Lady Michelle Obama about women and politics. It was then that she was invited to the holiday reception at the White House.

It was a last-minute invitation, said Briggs, who has taught music at the all-girls Catholic high school for six years.

Going meant rearranging the school's annual holiday concert, Briggs said, but the chance to meet the President and First Lady in person was too special to pass up, she said.

Before the reception Briggs, who attended the event with her sister Karen Chitko, went to a briefing at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where she heard from key members of the administration's Office of Public Engagement. Then, it was on to the White House.

There, Briggs said she saw the president's personal helicopter, Marine One, land on the lawn behind the White House and the President and the First Lady step out.

Briggs said she met other teachers at the reception and called her trip 'a wonderful, surreal experience.'

The highlight, though, was meeting the president and first lady, who addressed the guests and shook hands with Briggs, wishing her a merry Christmas.

'They were so at ease and thanked everyone for coming and being their guests and for all the work we do in our communities and as leaders,' Briggs said.

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