By Jill Rosen
The Baltimore Sun
11:15 AM EDT, June 6, 2012
The president leaned in, lightly touched Carla Hayden's shoulders and sent a whispered message into her right ear.
What exactly did Barack Obama, leader of the free world, say to the CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library? A national secret? A sweet nothing? The book at the top of his summer reading list?
Alas, nothing that sexy. Though Hayden was thrilled to mingle with the president and the First Lady at the White House Tuesday.
She was there for the annual summer event for federal appointees. Hayden serves on the board of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, helping oversee the federal grant program.
She brought Pratt spokesman Roswell Encina and the two strolled the south lawn, snacked on popcorn and peanuts and oohed and awed over Michelle Obama's vegetable garden, which Hayden describes as more than impressive. "I've grown a few tomatoes but nothing like that," she joked, adding that she managed to get a tip on how not to kill her basil plants from one of the pros that tend the garden.
For Hayden, the trip to the White House, her second, was like seeing old friends. She got to know the Obamas long before they became presidential while living in Chicago and working at that city's public library.
She met Michelle first, who was working for Mayor Richard M. Daley. And when the Obamas married, they moved in some of the same social circles as Hayden and she saw them regularly at parties and events.
"It's interesting to see someone you've known for a long time in the White House," she says. "That's kind of a strange feeling."
Hayden moved to Baltimore in 1993.
But even if you're old buddies with the president, it's still an honor to meet him on his home turf. So Hayden and Encina made sure to snare a strategic position in the long, long, long receiving line to be able to greet the Obamas personally.
While less lucky attendees stuck five, six and seven rows back strained to hold up their cell phones to capture the Obamas in a picture, Hayden enjoyed several seconds of personal time with the president -- and a bit with the first lady, too.
He hugged her.
"He said thanks for coming and good to see you," Hayden said, adding that Michelle Obama asked her if she was still in Baltimore.
"Just like a friend, you know," she said. "Someone you've known for along time."
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