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Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Editor's note: Dartmouth senior Alex Felix, an economics major from Cambridge, MA, was one of 12 members of the Dartmouth’s 2007 NCAA Championship ski team invited to the White House Monday, June 18, for President Bush’s annual “Champions’ Day” celebration honoring this year’s NCAA championship teams. On his way home to New York after the ceremony, Felix wrote about impressions of the day; this piece first appeared in the Valley News on June 20.
Our final trip with the 2007 Dartmouth Ski Team was a special one for the athletes, coaches, and administrators who have dedicated so much to the ski team in particular and Dartmouth Athletics in general. At the White House on June 18, President George W. Bush honored 27 of this year’s NCAA Division-1 national championship teams–of which we were one–in an afternoon-long celebration that included a tour of the White House, a personal meeting with President Bush, and Presidential remarks delivered on the South Lawn.
Having gone our separate ways after winning the ski championship, we arrived at Washington’s Hotel Sofitel from all corners of the country–some from Hanover, others from Colorado and Texas, myself from New York City where I’m spending the summer on an internship. Having the team together was pleasant reunion because end-of-term finals and graduation rarely allow much time to say goodbye to so many of the people that influenced our lives at Dartmouth.
The weather in the nation’s capital on Monday was unbearably hot, and so the hotel rooms were a welcome oasis for team members exchanging laughs, stories, and our new national championship rings. When we arrived at the Northeast entrance to the White House at around 2:30 p.m., we were greeted by our chaperone for the day, a White House staff member who escorted us through security and into the air-conditioned first floor of the White House and eventually to the main floor. Our chaperone was pleasant and informative, but constantly stressed by the buzz of his Blackberry, so we called him ‘Super Intern’. He led us through a midst of Secret Service and formally dressed Navy men and women, into the red and blue rooms, and finally to the Dartmouth Ski Team’s meeting area in the State Dining Room.
Simply standing below the paintings of past presidents and the large seal of the President of the United States, and with the teammates with whom you have spent countless hours engaged in competition was awe-inspiring. During the next hour, we walked the halls on the main floor chatting with athletes from other schools, taking pictures in various rooms, and enjoying the unique opportunity to look outside onto Washington DC from the Presidents home. , “The inside of the White House has gorgeous pictures and memorabilia,” said women’s Alpine team member Michaelanne Shields. “That will stay with me for a lifetime.”
President Bush made his way around the building and into each room to meet with the teams. When he finally arrived in the State Dining Room, senior cross country captain Mike Sinnott presented him with a special Dartmouth Ski Team jacket and belt buckle. After shaking hands with members of the team President Bush exclaimed how great a school Dartmouth is and how proud he is to have such extraordinary student-athletes at the White House. We exchanged jokes and pleasantries with the President. Mr. Bush asked, “Who was your main competition?” Mikey was quick to reply: “No one important.”
Finally, we grouped together for a team photo with the President, and moments later descended the South Portico of the White House onto the South Lawn to our seats for the Presidential remarks. As one of the last teams to be introduced, and right before Florida men’s basketball, it was a great honor to have front row seats right behind many of the members of Congress on hand for the address. And while we missed out on the legendary White House lemonade, being among the last teams introduced had the added bonus to forcing us to spend the least amount of time outside in the melting heat.
When we arrived at our seats, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, a 1968 Dartmouth grad, was the first one to fight his way over and congratulate us on our accomplishments. He spent time speaking with me about Dartmouth and his excitement for our visit to the White House and what it means for the school which he loves. It was refreshing for us to understand that the dedication of Dartmouth College alumni is genuine and deeply rooted.
During the address, Mr. Paulson jumped up with a fist pump when President Bush remarked, “Some of the teams here have been waiting a long time to reclaim a championship. Dartmouth Men's and Women's Skiing Team -- they won their first title 30 years ago, and now they're here at the White House. Congratulations.” As we listened to the President’s address all of the NCAA Championship teams captains stood behind President Bush. Our men’s Alpine captain David Chodounsky, stood next to the North Carolina women’s soccer captain whose school has won 18 of the 25 titles in NCAA history. “It’s cool to be in the presence of so many great athletes,” Dave said, “and, on top of it all to stand right behind the President of the United States.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, members of all teams lingered on the White House lawn. Looking outside the gates at the Washington Monument and reflecting on the day, we realized how fortunate we are to have such a fantastic opportunity. Although not everyone in attendance will go on to be a professional athlete, President Bush was very clear in the ways that being a student-athlete is an accomplishment and a tool to carry us through life and help others. After all, the experience of a college student is unique. Just this weekend Evan Weiss, Dave Chodounsky, and I walked countless hours with our bags and spent nights on couches and floors of generous friends just to tour the monuments and museums that bear witness to the evolution of the United States. On Sunday, we checked into a four-star hotel, and on Monday, shook the hand of the President of the United States. The visit to the White House was a great honor for our team, coaches, and athletic staff that will inspire us all.
Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.