(May 23, 2012) On May 8, when President Barack Obama visited University at Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, A.W. Becker’s own Dalton Augar was there to greet him.
Dalton said a letter boasting the presidential seal arrived at his house two days before the president’s speech, inviting the fourth grader and his family to attend the event. The invitation was in honor of military service by Dalton’s stepfather, Sgt. Julian With. A decorated Iraq veteran, With served in the Battle of Fallujah. Although Sgt. With and Dalton were not yet a family at the time, the two had a remarkable connection. Dalton and With had been pen pals while Sgt. With was overseas, and With had kept all the photos and letters Dalton sent to him.
Dalton donned a suit for the big day, and he and his parents arrived at the Nanoscale building where Dalton says “it was really big and there were so many chairs.” But in that sea of chairs, there was a seat reserved for Dalton in the very first row.
At the high-tech facility, the president spoke about the future of the American economy. But for Dalton, the most significant point of the speech highlighted strategies for helping veterans get better jobs and education after they complete their military service. “I think that’s really important,” said Dalton.
Following the speech, Dalton and his parents had the opportunity to meet and speak briefly with the president. “There were so many body guards around him,” said Dalton. “And you had to show your hands before you could see him.”
The president asked Dalton what his name was, how old he was and what grade he was in. Asked if he was nervous meeting the leader of the free world, Dalton said no. “It was exciting. I didn’t stutter or anything. I really just talked to him.”
When Dalton told his friends and classmates he’d met the president, some were impressed and some thought he was making it up, “until I showed them pictures,” said Dalton. “Then they believed me!”
Dalton, who has been playing baseball since he was four and wants to be a baseball player when he grows up, said if he had more time to talk to the president he would want to talk to him about sports. “I know he likes basketball—the Chicago Bulls. I like them, and the Miami Heat. I’d like to ask what his favorite sport is.”