On the South Lawn of the White House

Above: Professor Ayele Bekerie and his former students, Yeshi
Abebe and Tsehai Abebe, attend an event on the South Lawn
of the White House on June 29, 2010. —— (Courtesy Photo)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Updated: Friday, July 2, 2010

New York (Tadias) – Tadias recently received a wonderful note from Professor Ayele Bekerie at Cornell University. Two of his former students had sent him an invitation to attend an event on the South Lawn of the White House honoring appointees who had been involved in the Obama Presidential campaign and now had government jobs.

Below are Professor Bekerie’s synopsis and photos:

In 1999 nine students of Ethiopian background graduated from Cornell University. The majority of them took one or more courses with me while they were undergraduate students. Among these graduates were Yeshimebet Abebe and Tsehai Abebe, who are sisters. Yeshi, Tsehai and their third sister Saba work for the Federal Government. They were actively involved in the campaign to elect President Obama in Iowa where they were born.

On June 29, 2010, the White House invited political appointees (those who work for the Government as a result of Obama’s Presidency) to a summer event on the South Lawn of the White House. The appointees played a critical role in the election of President Obama. Each appointee was also allowed to invite a person of their choice. Yeshi chose me to attend the event. Her act is an expression of a great tradition in which she and her sisters wanted to acknowledge my service to them as a professor as an advisor.

The summer event on the South Lawn was attended by thousands of appointees and their guests. After passing through elaborate security clearance, we arrived at The Lawn, which is vast, memory-laden and beautiful; it was filled up with guests who sat around picnic tables, on the grass, or simply walked around. At service tents, guests can got soft drinks, ice cream, and ice cold water – It was the most sought after drink in the hot and humid Washington summer afternoon. A great live band played a variety of selections drawn from great American music traditions throughout the event.

President Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama joined their guests a little after 5:30 pm. The President spoke briefly and his main message was a message of gratitude. The appointees critical role in his election is publicly acknowledge and appreciated. He also cited some of his administration’s accomplishments in the last eighteen months, such as the largest public projects to improve roads and bridges, free health insurance to all needy children, health insurance that will allow over 30 million Americans to have insurance coverage, financial regulation and new approach to foreign policy.

The President and the First Lady interacted with the guests, shook hands and engaged them in conversation. My cherished moments, of course, was when I shook hands with both President Obama and the First Lady. I also got a chance to take pictures. The Summer Event on the South Lawn ended at 7 pm. The sisters treated me to a dinner before I returned to Ithaca.

Here is a slideshow of photos from the event:

11 Responses to “On the South Lawn of the White House”


  1. 1 Addisu Jul 1st, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    {Thank you for sharing} This highlights the result of the contributions by many Ethiopian-Americans and the important roles they played during Obama’s historic run for the presidency and the difference they made since the 2008 elections! I also would like to take my hat off to your accomplished former students – Yeshi Abebe and Tsehai Abebe – {for their continued service}.

  2. 2 Abesha Cornell University - Alumni Jul 2nd, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Thank you professor Ayele Bekerie. You always aspire to inspire your students and readers in more ways than one and I am not surprised that Yeshi and Tsehai, whom I know very well, show such great respect to their former teacher and current advisor. Thanks for sharing this exciting report and photos. I look forward to reading more of your articles on Tadias!

    Wishing you a great summer!!!

  3. 3 endalc Jul 2nd, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Thank you for this article!

  4. 4 Ethiopian-American Jul 2nd, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    We are living in an interesting age. I was one of those Ethiopian Americans who got involved in politics for the first time because I was inspired by the idea of electing President the improbable candidate then Senator Barack Obama. So Yeshi and Tsehai represent my generation. Despite what his critics say, there could be no doubt that President Obama has remade the American brand on the world stage in a very positive way. Obama is not perfect. In fact, he can be as frustrating to his supporters as he is to his detractors. But he is a quick study, exceedingly intelligent (not required for the job), and has a Zen like balance in his temper under all circumstances. And he is getting a lot done. Historians have already begun comparing the domestic legislative achievements of the young presidency of Barack Obama to that of FDR. It is no small compliment to be compared to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the most accomplished and revered leaders this nation has ever had. But one thing is assured in the future, the time we live in today will go down as a very important American historical era! And I am glad that Dr. Bekerie has captured and shared with us a little piece of Zemene Obama!

  5. 5 TJ Jul 3rd, 2010 at 2:20 am

    What does zemene mean in English?

  6. 6 Ayele Bekerie Jul 3rd, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Zemene Obama translates to Era of Obama. Zemene is derived from Zemen, which means era.

  7. 7 TJ Jul 3rd, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Thank you Professor.

  8. 8 Sosena Mulugeta Jul 4th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    It’s very pleasing to see a teacher’s fruitful results.

  9. 9 Jara Kumela Jul 7th, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Professor Ayele Bekerie is both a scholar and a gentleman, in true sense of the words. He represents the best of Ethiopia and America, both in his intellect and manner. He is a leading academic of his generation on the concept of Ethiopia. And I too would like to extend my thanks to the Professor for sharing with us not only “a little piece of Zemene Obama,” but also the key roles that Ethiopian Americans played during the historic 2008 campaign and their post-election roles in helping to govern the country. Thank you and thank you!

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