WASHINGTON – At 106 years old, she’s seen more than a dozen presidents come and go, but Virginia McLaurin says she can finally die happy after meeting President Barack Obama.
Video of the centenarian shaking her groove with excitement quickly went viral on the Internet after last week’s Black History Month reception at the White House. The grandmother said that when she saw the president and first lady Michelle Obama in the flesh, “I was so happy, I started dancing.”
“I’ve come a long ways, a long ways,” McLaurin said in an interview outside her Washington home. “I just didn’t think I’d ever live to go this far in the world.”
For McLaurin, who said she was born in South Carolina in 1909, the White House invitation was a long time in the making. It’s been more than a year since she started a White House petition asking to meet the president — and offering to come to his house to make it easier.
“I didn’t think I’d ever live to see a colored president,” McLaurin, who is black, said in a YouTube video accompanying the petition.
Her petition didn’t garner enough signatures to meet the White House threshold for an official response, but it didn’t keep her from securing an invitation to Thursday’s reception, where Obama reflected on the legacy of U.S. slavery and called America “a constant work in progress.”
Dressed in a teal blue suit with matching nail polish, McLaurin nabbed a few moments of one-on-one time with the president and Mrs. Obama during a photo line for the reception’s guests, where a White House videographer captured a shaky video of her jumping up and down with excitement. Independent news organizations weren’t allowed to see or record what the White House described as a private moment.
“I know he said something, but I don’t remember,” McLaurin said of Obama. “My hearing is kind of bad.”
The meeting turned McLaurin, who said she’s lived in Washington since the 1930s, into something of an overnight celebrity. She said her phone had been ringing since 5 a.m. Monday, depriving her of a chance to eat breakfast or lunch.
So what’s next for a woman who said her dream has been fulfilled?
“I don’t know,” McLaurin said. “I could just die happy.”