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Portland State alum recounts surprise limo ride with President Obama
Author: Victor Mena
Posted: October 21, 2014

Victor Mena, a 2013 graduate of Portland State, is working in Sen. Ron Wyden’s office this fall as a public policy fellow with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. He was invited to the White House on Oct. 2. Here’s his story about what happened next:

When I arrived at the White House, I was expecting to discuss immigration reform with Cecilia Muñoz, the president’s domestic policy director. But after a quick tour and talk with Ms. Muñoz, my colleague and I were told we would be meeting with President Obama, too. 

I was nervous while we waited for the most powerful man in the world. Ms. Muñoz told us more about her trajectory to the White House, and we shared our stories about being “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

The President finally arrived, greeted us, and we shook hands with him. It was then that we found out we would be riding with him in his limo, called “The Beast,” to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s awards gala, where he would give a speech on immigration. 

On the way to the gala, President Obama was very engaged in our conversations and wanted to hear about our experiences as “Dreamer” students and our future goals. He interacted with us in such a personal manner that it helped me relax and think about questions to ask. Of course, because I love Oregon so much I had to mention my state, and he said Oregon is his fifth favorite state.

Since I was sitting directly in front of the President, he took my phone and took photos of me with Ms. Muñoz. 

I thanked him for providing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and allowing some undocumented young people to stay and work in the U.S., because my brother has really benefitted from it. President Obama told us he would like to pass more immigration reform through Congress first. However, if that fails, he will take executive actions, a message he repeated to the gala crowd.

It was surreal to meet President Obama. The next morning I woke up trying to recollect everything that had happened. This experience will stay with me as I complete my fellowship year in Washington D.C. and apply to graduate schools in public policy. 

—Victor Mena 

Pictured top: President Obama greets PSU alumnus Victor Mena in the White House. Above right: Cecelia Muñoz and Mena in the President's limo, photo by President Obama.