Tag Archives: Ambassador Phillips

“Obama Day” in Rome

27 Mar
One of the local news channels — at least the one we monitor in the office — declared today
President Barack Obama addresses U.S. Embassy employees at Villa Taverna, March 27, 2014.

President Barack Obama addresses U.S. Embassy employees at Villa Taverna, March 27, 2014.

“Obama Day.” Much like a weather disaster in the U.S., like “Snowmageddon” or “Arctic Blast,” Sky24 TV covered the President’s visit to Rome all day, step by step, motorcade by motorcade, meeting by meeting. Traffic was so bad there might as well have been a winter storm. Going on foot, as we do, was certainly easier. 
It’s hard to imagine this type of coverage in the U.S. A visit by the Queen of England would be a big deal, but it would never get full play-by-play coverage. In the U.S., we reserve that for national disasters. Here, POTUS is a big deal and his entire agenda was seen as newsworthy.
The crowd awaits entrance to Villa Taverna. Grazie a Dio there was no rain!

The crowd awaits entrance to Villa Taverna. Grazie a Dio there was no rain!

The police presence was impressive. Beginning Wednesday, in preparation for an evening arrival, every Italian law enforcement group was mobilized, surrounding the Embassy as well as the Ambassador’s residence where POTUS would stay. Adding complexity, Secretary of State Kerry also came to town. The Carabinieri, Polizia di Stato, Guardia di Finanza, and the Roma Polizia Municipale were all on duty.  There were probably others that went unseen.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Obama, like any visiting dignitary, was running
About 200 people gathered in the garden of VT and patiently awaited the guests of honor.

About 200 people gathered in the garden of VT and patiently awaited the guests of honor.

late by the end of his first appointment, which was with Papa Francesco. It struck me as I watched the extensive Italian coverage of the meeting, that arguably the two most influential men in the world were in that Vatican room together today.  Each very popular in the other’s country, by the way. The American approval rating of Papa Francesco is 3-out-of-4, and Italians overall like President Obama very much.  
The day progressed with Mr. Obama meeting with President Napolitano, Prime Minister Renzi, and finally a private tour of the Colosseum. 
These kids are a little young to be so entranced by a mere president. The object of their attention: a movie on aniPad.

These kids are a little young to be so entranced by a mere president. The object of their attention: a movie on an iPad.

Tonight we were invited to the Ambassador’s residence, Villa Taverna, for a “meet and greet” with the President and “S” as Kerry is called.  Security was beyond tight, and we were instructed to arrive by 16:30 for an 18:30 arrival of POTUS. Luckily the rain that threatened and spat throughout the day ceased about 16:00 as the event was outdoors. We were joined by a couple hundred embassy employees and family members, and after enduring a good-natured wait in line to be frisked screened,  we mingled in the fabulous garden of VT to await our Commander-in-Chief.  Surprisingly he was only about 15-20 minutes late!
Secretary was the opening act for POTUS. He has been in Rome a lot  since becoming "S."

Secretary was the opening act for POTUS. He has been in Rome a lot since becoming “S.”

This was the first time Ric and I had the pleasure of being in the same “room” as a president. It was pretty darned exciting. He, Secretary Kerry, and Ambassador Phillips are all pretty good friends. I imagine they retreated to an amicable evening inside Villa Taverna as we headed home and a light mist began to fall. 
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