Friday, January 10, 2014

President Obama Treats Obamacare Youth Activists To Lunch At DC's The Coupe

POTUS and his lunch guests
President enjoys a cheeseburger and apple cider doughnuts while discussing insurance enrollment with Young Invincibles during first DC dining excursion of 2014...
Washington, DC President Barack Obama on Friday had his first dining excursion of 2014 in the nation's capital, treating five young adults who are Obamacare activists to a lunch that lasted more than an hour at The Coupe restaurant in Columbia Heights.   

The Eater in Chief arrived by motorcade at 12:17 PM for his first-ever visit to the popular diner, which is open 24/7 and features locally sourced artisan renditions of American comfort food.  The outing was not listed on the President's official daily schedule.

As is typical when he lunches outside the White House, President Obama enjoyed a cheeseburger, ordering the house special, the Coupe Burger, with fried onion rings, sauteed mushrooms and sharp cheddar ($12). He ordered a side of spinach, and drank sweet tea ($3).  He also sampled the apple cider doughnuts ($6), then paid the $100 tab himself, and left a nice 30% tip, an employee said.

Andres Cruz speaks to the President
The White House is in the midst of a massive push to get the so-called 'Young Invincibles,' those ages 18-29, to sign up for insurance in the healthcare Marketplaces.  The White House said the lunch was a way of thanking the group, "who are spearheading creative outreach efforts to connect with and help enroll young consumers through the Marketplaces or are interested in getting more involved with these efforts."

"The President wanted to hear directly from young people about their experiences spreading the word about the importance of signing up for quality, affordable health insurance and thank them for their efforts," the White House said.

From L, Johnson, Cruz, POTUS, Hicks, McFly and Dimock
Tommy McFly, radio personality and host of the Tommy Show on 94.7 FM, was among the guests chatting with the jacketless President as he sat with his elbows on the bare wooden table.  McFly served as the Official Emcee for the 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll last April. 

"As a kid, thinking about the future it's usually a dream to have lunch with the President. Just did. Grateful. @BarackObama," McFly tweeted after the lunch.

The President's other guests were Anne Johnson, the Executive Director of Generation Progress, the youth division of the Center for American Progress; Jasmine Hicks, a National Organizing and Education Manager for Young Invincibles; David Dimock, ID'd as "a small business owner" who has signed up for Obamacare; and Andres Cruz, who works as a DC Health Link In-Person Assister--a live rep for the District's insurance marketplace.

During the second half of the open enrollment period for insurance plans, the White House is scrambling to boost sign-ups from the critical youth sector, with all kinds of activities that will culminate in National Youth Enrollment Day on Feb. 15th. 

"The administration is focusing on an aggressive outreach effort to reach young people where they are, working with allies across the spectrum including grassroots organizers, elected officials, colleges and universities, celebrities, athletes and arts leaders," the White House said.

WH Photo of the Day: POTUS hoists a future voter aloft
Before his lunch was over, the President mingled with other patrons at The Coupe--including holding a couple of cute babies.  One tiny future voter got a Presidential "airplane" ride:  The photo above by Chief Official Photographer Pete Souza became Friday's Photo of the Day on the White House website.

"He's a cheerful guy," President Obama said as he picked up the second baby; the White House posted an Instagram video of the moment.

The Coupe was informed the President would be taking over the diner on Thursday, said an employee.  Twitter was lit with the news of the visit on Friday morning, thanks to street closures and heavy Secret Service presence in the area.  Other patrons were in the diner as the President lunched with his guests, and tweeted photos of the action.

Twitter user @JohnGramlich posted this photo of POTUS chatting
The press pool was allowed in to observe for a little less than two minutes, far more than the 30 seconds that were granted when the President lunched with Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday at the White House.  The President's fellow diners tweeted photos.

The President departed The Coupe to cheers from a small group that had gathered outside, and was in his motorcade at 1:27 PM.  He arrived back at the White House at 1:44 PM.  He had no public events listed on his official schedule for Friday, which noted only the morning Presidential Daily Briefing.

The lunch was the President's third edible excursion of 2014: He had dinner twice during his vacation in Hawaii after the New Year began.

The President cuddling the second baby during his visit:

From the White House, the bios of the President's guests: 

*Anne Johnson, the Executive Director of Generation Progress, the youth division of the Center for American Progress (CAP). Generation Progress is a national organization that works on a number of issues affecting young people and have been working to get information to young people about their health care options.

*David Dimock, who attended the White House Youth Summit to learn more about the Affordable Care Act and how to get the word out about enrollment to young people. He is an entrepreneur and started a business that places TVs and programming in Community Health Centers across the country. As a small business owner who doesn’t receive separate coverage, he signed up for healthcare through the Maryland Heath Exchange and his new plan will begin February 1.

*Jasmine Hicks is a National Organizing and Education Manager for Young Invincibles, an organization that advocates for 18-34 year olds and is mobilizing young people across the country to spread the word about health care. Over the holidays, Jasmine and her colleagues worked with volunteers to speak with holiday shoppers at Pentagon City Mall about their options.

*Tommy McFly is a radio personality and host of the Tommy show on 94.7 FM. He also works with the Best Buddies, GW University Mobile Mammography Unit, The American Red Cross, Chris4Life Colon Cancer Foundation, The Alzheimer’s Association, and many other organizations on projects throughout the year.

*Andres Cruz works as a DC Health Link In-Person Assister to help DC-area residents enroll for insurance. He has worked for Mary’s Center – a federally qualified health center that provides family literacy, social services, and health care regardless of participants ability to pay – for more than six years.

Information:  The Coupe at 3415 11th St NW, Washington, DC, 20010.  Phone: 202- 290-3342.

*Pool photos, except for photos by @JohnGramlich, who is a reporter for Roll Call but was off duty and enjoying his own lunch