Last night, in the straightest event ever held at the Castro Theatre, Pete Souza, the Chief Official White House Photographer for all of Barack Obama's eight years as President, presented a slideshow of his favorite photos from the more than 1.9 million that he snapped during that time.
I had been trying to snag tickets to Pete Souza: An Intimate Portrait of President Obama for weeks, but due to Souza's mounting Instagram following and the popularity of his new book, everybody else in the Bay Area was, too. Needless to say, tickets were not easy to come by. Bevan offered to "make some calls" because the dude's got sway, but even that didn't seem to be enough for this; we'd been put on the waiting list.
I'd all but given up hope of seeing Mr. Souza when, at five of six yesterday evening, my phone rang. I didn't recognize the number so I screened the call, but a few minutes later a text from the same number came through.
B was out getting groceries and his phone was dead but I told Kimberly that we'd be there anyway and then stood by the front door for the next half an hour willing Bevan to get home before the show's 7:00pm start time. He finally walked into the house at 6:30 and I made him turn right around and walk out again so we could grab a Lyft and make it to the Castro Theatre for our date with destiny or, more accurately, Pete Souza.
The format of Souza's presentation was simple, he stood at a podium with a MacBook Air and manually advanced a slideshow of pictures while telling stories about them. My two favorites were the now-famous tale of President Obama bending down to allow a four-year-old boy to touch his hair and Souza's recollection of what it was like to be at the White House on the night when same-sex marriage became legal in the United States.
He also talked about the days immediately following the Sandy Hook massacre, President Obama's one-game stint as the coach of Sasha's elementary school basketball team, the relationship between Barack and his VP Joe Biden, the night Osama bin Laden was killed and how the President went to great lengths for soldiers wounded in battle.
I've been racking my brain all day to recall an event I've attended that was more inspiring than last night's. Pete Souza is an incredible guy. He's smart and hilarious and he's captured more iconic moments in American history than anybody else ever. He had the packed auditorium laughing, crying and yearning, even more-so, for the days when our country wasn't run by a moronic, fame-obsessed bucket of steaming hot garbage juice.
(Sorry. That just slipped out.)
Before the slideshow ended and the Q&A session with "Pod Save America" co-host Dan Pfeiffer began, Souza pulled up one final slide, a plain background that contained, for the only time all night, not a photograph but words. It was a quote from his former boss that I need to stash below.
Last night, for the first time in far too long, I was reminded, through the camera lens of a man who's seen it all, that even still, progress is possible.