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Guy Behind the Guy: The West Wing

Thursday, 11.6.2008 / 3:42 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
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Guy Behind the Guy: The West Wing
Mike Sundheim
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Back in 2007, when we visited the White House, I got to know a gentleman named Marc Thiessen, who is the Assistant to the President for Speechwriting. Marc was preparing the President’s remarks for the Hurricanes’ visit with the Stanley Cup, and worked with me to get more background information on the team. The result were remarks that touched on our achievement in more than just general terms, citing specific, personal aspects of the title from Julia Rowe to Mike Commodore’s hair.

I spoke to Mr. Thiessen for a while after the speech. I had had an opportunity to quickly run through the West Wing with our players on the way to their media access that day, and told Marc how neat it was to even catch a quick glance into the Oval Office. Marc was standing with his son after the ceremony, a young hockey player whose entire youth team was there to see the presentation and get a glimpse of the Stanley Cup. He told me to keep his contact information, and let him know when I was in town with a little extra time, so that he could give me a better tour of the West Wing.

We tried a time or two over the last few years, but the visit finally did happen last night. It was truly an interesting time to visit the White House – the day after an election determined the next resident at the world’s most famous address. Obviously it is a time of mixed emotions for Marc and his co-workers, who will be moving on to the next stage of their careers soon. It’s an extremely busy time as well (I guess when isn’t… it IS The White House), but Marc took the time to give me the tour he had promised, and it was a tremendous experience.

Marc was able to provide me with two additional slots for the tour, which was great because I was able to bring my sister, Jill, and my brother-in-law, T.J., for the once-in-a-lifetime tour.

We saw the Situation Room, the Roosevelt Room, the Rose Garden, the Cabinet Room and, of course, the Oval Office. We saw the Brady Press Briefing Room, which was recently remodeled, and of some significance to me since it is the room that most closely relates to my own job. (I couldn’t believe how small it is… The NHL would most certainly deem it “too small” for a press conference during the Stanley Cup Finals). Even Marc’s own West Wing office had some significance – it was previously the office of Hillary Clinton when she was The First Lady.

It was fascinating to hear the little tidbits of history with each room, and each hallway. It was also interesting to learn how the West Wing changes from administration to administration, including its transitions from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush and how it will change again when Barack Obama moves in on Jan. 20.

I am certainly glad that I took advantage of Marc’s offer. I sometimes give people tours of the arena, and it is fun to see the awe in their eyes when they see things that I take for granted because I see them daily. Last night, the situation was completely reversed, and I was the one in awe of the history that was laid out in front of my own eyes.

Thanks Marc. You’re okay by me, for a Rangers fan.


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