Conrad Honicker, the gay high-school activist we profiled in a cover story in April of last year, went to Washington, D.C., as part of a delegation of activists appealing for more support from the Obama administration.
Honicker was there representing the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which opposes harassment of sexual minorities in schools.
The 17-year-old rising senior at West High met the president and his wife in the White House on Monday. His parents, Cliff Honicker and Jackie Kittrell, no strangers to activism of several sorts, came along for support. They got to meet briefly with the Obamas privately, albeit briefly, for a photo opportunity.
“Hello, Mr. President,” Conrad Honicker said to Barack Obama himself. “Thank you for being a visible ally for teens like me.”
Obama didn’t respond directly, but took a good look at the young visitor and said, “Man, those are the coolest shoes that have ever been in the White House.”
Honicker was wearing, by his own description, “silver leather dress shoes with James Dean on the bottom.”
Honicker talked a bit more to Michelle Obama, who sounded warmly noncommittal, as a first lady should always be, and gave him a big hug. Kittrell says they bragged on Knox County’s institutional response to several local problems with bullying. “It didn’t feel rushed,” Kittrell says. “But it was over very quickly.”
The Honickers also attended another event in the East Room, and got to meet Obama senior advisors David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, as well as gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. Actress Jennifer Beals—who’s not a lesbian but has played one on TV—was also in the house. It’s unclear whether she spotted Conrad’s shoes.