The Day I Swam to the White House

Visiting Harriet Miers, on (and under) cloud nine

Published in 2008 Texas Rising Stars — April 2008

After Shonn Brown was made a partner at Locke Liddell & Sapp, she had a chance to visit her mentor, Harriet Miers, at the White House. As she writes about the meeting, below, Harriet’s welcome was warm, but the trip there was cold and wet.

June 19, 2006

After returning from maternity leave, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar in D.C., with my other colleagues who had also just matriculated to partnership. I was extremely excited that this new partner seminar would be held in D.C., because it would give me the opportunity to visit with my mentor, Harriet Miers, who was then serving as White House counsel.

I immediately arranged a visit with Harriet at the White House and was very excited to see her office and the inner workings of the White House counsel’s office.

After checking into the hotel on a beautiful and sunny day in D.C., I quickly dropped my bags and hailed a cab: “To 1600 Pennsylvania, the White House, Northwest Gate entrance, please.” I had on a great suit that—amazingly—fit after having a baby just three months before, my new return-to-work-from-maternity-leave black peep-toe heeled shoes and I was a partner ... I was feeling good. When the cab got me to the vicinity of the White House, there was a bit of trouble because we were not able to get to the street facing the Northwest Gate entrance. It had been blocked off by Secret Service, so I would have to walk. I was not terribly excited about this, especially in my new shoes, but nothing would deter me or prevent me from seeing Harriet and the White House! So I instructed the cab driver to let me out so I could walk the remainder of the way.

Because I was let out on the southeast side of the White House, I still had quite a walk. About 30 seconds after the cab let me out, the weather got a little less bright and sunny and turned gray. Then, it started to sprinkle just a bit. I had no umbrella, but that was no big deal because I would just move a bit quicker and get to the gate. It then started pouring rain. My hair was drenched, my cuffed pants were collecting water and my new shoes were squishy. It was awful. Finally, I reached the gate (or so I thought). I rushed up to a covered area and to the Secret Service. “I’m here to see Harriet Miers, White House counsel.” I was instructed to go to the Northwest Gate. The Secret Service guy looked at me without sympathy and without returning my Southern-girl smile. “It’s down there,” he said, pointing to the opposite end of the street. Mind you, there are two other gates before getting to what was the correct one. I sloshed along and continued on my trek, getting more and more soaked by the second. I got to the gate next to the one I was to enter and asked if I could please just go in through this gate. “No ma’am, you’ll need to go down there.” I took off my shoes and ran for my life to the final “Northwest Gate entrance.” I get to the gate and enter into the Secret Service booth. I am finally there. I get my A pass. This guy at least acts as if he is expecting me, but basically ignores my puppy dog eyes and face and my dripping attire and has me sign in as usual. I can see the White House very nearby. I’m at least there. So, I go through the Secret Service booth, he checks my purse, which is also filled with water, and instructs me to head to the door, where the White House receptionist will greet me. On the other side of the booth before the door is a long uncovered walkway. When I finally reached the inside of the White House, the receptionist looked sad for me and asked if I wanted to try to dry off before meeting Harriet.

I went to the bathroom and used the people’s towels to dry myself. The receptionist gave me a rubber band for my hair. This is not the meeting that I had expected. I finally saw Harriet and we had a good laugh about my experience. Her office was great. She showed me some of the pictures on her walls, including one of the president looking quite pensive on September 11. She proudly had her United States and Texas flags in her office. And she did not seem to mind that I left a wet ring on the people’s couch in her office.

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