Dover family takes the trip of a lifetime with the Obamas and Bidens.
That wasn’t just any girl doing the “bump” with President Barack Obama at the Neighborhood Ball Jan. 20. That was Victoria Lucas, a freshman at Appoquinimink High School and daughter of Quincy Lucas, a Dover resident and fourth-grade teacher at Silver Lake Elementary School in Middletown. ?
The dance move Victoria displayed with Obama was just one highlight of the Lucas family’s trip to Washington, D.C., during which they mingled with the president, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden Jr., his wife Dr. Jill Biden and Larry King, among others.
“People ask me, ‘Have you come down off of cloud nine?’” Quincy said. “How do you come off of cloud nine when you’ve had that experience?”?
Lucas’ affiliation with the Obamas and Bidens began Aug. 27, 2008, when she introduced Biden as the vice presidential candidate at the Democratic National Convention. She was chosen because of her crusade against domestic violence, which began after her sister, Dr. Witney Rose, was murdered by an ex-boyfriend in 2003. ?
Lucas founded Witney’s Lights, an organization dedicated to educating youth about and bringing awareness to domestic violence. Biden, who drafted the 1994 Violence Against Women Act and has worked to curtail domestic abuse, hand picked Quincy to represent him during the Obama-Biden campaign.
Whistle Stop Tour?
The Lucas family joined several others as special guests aboard Obama’s Whistle Stop Train Tour from Philadelphia to D.C. Jan. 17. The guests were invited to many pre- and post-Inaugural events.
“Our luggage tags said, ‘Invited guest of the president and vice president,’” Lucas said. “Everything we went to, we were guests of the president and vice president. We had Secret Service badges that we had to wear at all times.” ?
She said all of the invited guests thought the train ride was going to be a simple journey, but the president-elect had surprises planned along the way, the first of which was time to mingle with the Bidens and Obamas. ??
“That’s when the fun really started,” Lucas said. “Anything we brought that we wanted them to sign, they signed right there. We snacked, talked about things like the weather and our families. It was like hanging out with friends.”?
Also aboard the train were her husband, Kevin, and her three children — Malcolm, 16, Victoria, 14, and Benjamin, 13. Her children got to spend time with Sasha and Malia Obama in the kids’ train car, and helped decorate a train car and a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting for Michelle’s birthday, which also was Jan. 17.
Lucas said the Obamas and Bidens acknowledged their guests as friends and took time with each one to discuss issues that mattered to them. ?
“I mentioned to the president what I’d like to see happen with domestic violence awareness and how readily accessible I am to be part of his team,” she said. “He said, ‘Wow. You’ve got a lot on your mind. You know one thing … we know where to find you.’”?
Lucas said the president-elect listened intently to each of his guests as they spoke to him and made sure they were having a good time. ??
Mrs. Obama spoke with her about things like Quincy’s fingernails and her students, and shared a few of her own personal stories.
“She tells this interesting story about how when President Obama used to come home, it was quiet because he was driving and Sasha and Malia never knew when he was coming in the door,” Quincy said. “Now they definitely know when he’s coming home because they’ll hear a helicopter or sirens.”??
Lucas said while on the train, she was invited to introduce Obama at their stop in Baltimore. The president-elect didn’t know it, but Lucas was born and raised in Baltimore, and her sister was murdered there.
“It was the sixth anniversary of my sister’s death. The irony behind it was clear,” she said. “Being given this opportunity really wasn’t about me. It was about representing victims of domestic violence. I was not going to take that moment for granted.”??
Lucas said while she was on the train, the Presidential Inauguration Committee told her Larry King wanted her to appear on his show that night. She accepted the offer and talked to King about the train trip and Witney’s Lights.
Lucas and her family were given accommodations at the Concordia Hotel, which was three blocks from the White House.
The only information they had about the trip was a list of what attire to bring. ?
Lucas went to the “We Are One” concert Jan. 18, and on Jan. 19, all of the invited guests took part in the president’s day of service. The Lucas family went to the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium to help make care packages for U.S. troops who are overseas. ?
The Lucas children all were invited to the “We are the Future Concert” for kids that evening.
Lucas had prime seats for the Inauguration on the Capitol lawn directly below where Obama was sworn into office. ??
“It was a great time to be a part of history,” she said. “You feel like you’re experiencing it with him. It was even more special because my husband and my kids were with me. Instead of them opening a textbook and reading about it, they were there to experience everything.”??
Lucas watched the inaugural parade and then headed to the Neighborhood Ball in her “democratic blue” gown, where all of the guests from the Whistle Stop Train Tour were invited to dance on stage with the Obamas as the event was broadcast around the world. ?
“My kids had socialized with [the president] before and he was dancing with different ladies from our group,” Quincy said. “Victoria said to him, ‘Hey, let’s do the bump.’ Right before that, Malcolm was dancing with Michelle. Malcolm is normally not shy, but she grabbed his hand and his brown skin turned completely red.”?
Lucas said Victoria has received many inquiries about interviews. She spoke with People magazine and took calls from the Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey staffs. Even the Lucas’ neighbors have been contacted for interviews. ?
“Most people won’t get the chance to meet the president much less dance with the president in their lifetime,” Lucas said.
The president introduced his invited guests to Stevie Wonder and Denzel Washington. They were told they could stay on the stage as long as they wanted, and they danced the rest of the night away.
“I kicked my shoes off and enjoyed every moment of it,” she said. ?
The family was invited to a house warming party at the Vice President’s house the next day, where they were treated to a symphony, a full spread of food and hors d’oeuvres, and had the chance to socialize with a select group of guests.
Lucas since has been overwhelmed with calls for interviews from every major television network and a station in France, and invitations for speaking engagements. ?
“They’ve heard a lot about Witney’s Lights and I’m going to keep talking about Witney’s Lights and keep talking about my sister,” she said. ??
Lucas has brought in souvenirs every day to her students at Silver Lake, like cloth napkins that say, “Home of the Vice President,” a presidential inauguration notebook, the official presidential coin, and the items signed by Obama.
Her students have been very interested in Victoria’s dance with the president and have asked if she could take them to the White House, but they also found a deeper meaning in their teacher’s popularity. ??
“They’re making the connection that if you try to make a difference, it takes you to meet some pretty interesting people,” Lucas said. “I’m a teacher, yes, but the reason why I’ve become an advocate is because of domestic violence.”??
Some of her students even have thought of their own ways to make a positive impact on others. Others are already involved in the community and want to do more. ?
“If each one of us stepped up beyond ourselves to make a difference, you have no idea the lives you can change. That’s really what I’m teaching,” Quincy said. “We can teach them the book and the curriculum, but if I can’t teach them to give back, then I feel like I haven’t taught them anything.”?
She’s also tried to teach her students she didn’t become an advocate for domestic violence awareness for the recognition. ?
“I started Witney’s Lights for the memory of my sister,” Lucas said. “This was a great experience, but after I put the ball gown up and our tuxedos away, I’m still on that mission for domestic violence awareness.”
Shauna McVey is a staff writer at the Middletown Transcript, a sister paper to the Dover Post. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.