When Mario and Deidra Orosa needed a last-minute baby sitter last week so they could fly to Washington, D.C., on short notice, Mario’s dad naturally wanted to know why. “I said, ‘Keep this between us. We’re having dinner with the president,’ ” Mario told him.
When Mario and Deidra Orosa needed a last-minute baby sitter last week so they could fly to Washington, D.C., on short notice, Mario’s dad naturally wanted to know why.
“I said, ‘Keep this between us. We’re having dinner with the president,’ ” Mario remembers. “He just said, ‘No, you’re not.’ ”
Dinner with the leader of the free world? Unlikely, but true.
Mario Orosa was chosen as the sixth and final winner in the “Dinner with Barack” Democratic fundraising sweepstakes. He chose his wife, Deidra, as his “plus one,” and the couple left for the capital Oct. 11 to prepare for Friday night out on H Street.
The couple, who rarely discuss politics and steer clear of political posts on Facebook, has no choice now but to dish.
PASSING THE TEST
Getting to eat with the president doesn’t happen easily. The couple was thoroughly vetted before they even knew they won.
Staff members, Deidra said, would call and ask them questions about their lives and jobs.
A technical specialist at Goodyear’s Innovation Center, Mario Orosa is an Ohio native who grew up in Akron and graduated from Garfield High School.
Deidra, a registered nurse at Akron General Hospital, also grew up in Akron.
After several calls, the campaign finally told Mario Orosa that he had won the sweepstakes.
A Secret Service background check and more questions followed. They were asked if they had ever done anything that may embarrass themselves or the president.
“What do you mean by embarrassing?” Mario said he asked with a laugh.
They passed with flying colors and were asked to prepare questions and topics, which the campaign then approved.
While it may sound stuffy and planned, the Orosas said it was casual and comfortable.
“He talked about work, like you or I would talk about work,” Deidra said.
The couple waited at the table with four other winners for Obama to arrive that evening.
“He was upstairs. He came down and rounded that corner and said, ‘Hello!’ ” Deidra said. “He knew us all by name and profession, and he broke the ice with each of us.”
Although they had never submitted any photos of their children (they have three together, and Mario has a 28-year-old daughter), the president told them they had beautiful children, Mario said.
Obama ate salmon, while Mario and Deidra had steak and swordfish, respectively. They discussed family, work and, yes, politics.
Mario Orosa said the president told them that he enjoys the legislative part of politics and likes to roll up his sleeves and get to the “guts” of a matter.
Page 2 of 2 - They said he talked about what he wants to do better, and they found him to be quite humble.
Deidra Orosa said she discussed her dismay at attempts to restrict or limit early voting and access to the polls for some.
“He was so warm and so kind, yet very professional,” Deidra said.
As well-planned as the evening was, it did have one unfortunate moment.
Deidra, who is allergic to cashews, began to have a reaction to something in her dinner. It started as a hive on her cheek, and her medicine was back at the hotel.
“She looked worse every time I looked over at her,” said her husband, who saw the hives spreading. “She said, ‘I’m not leaving!’ ”
Fortunately, the dinner was wrapping up, and all that was left to do was take pictures with Obama.
As they posed, Deidra’s throat was getting tight. That’s when Obama realized something was wrong.
He told his staff to get her some help, Mario said. Before they knew it, the president’s personal physician was taking care of Deidra, and the president was sticking around to make sure she was OK.
“That was most telling about him. He stayed and got me help,” said Deidra.
The couple still plan to refrain from discussing politics with friends and family, other than to urge them to vote.
But the Orosas are firmly in Obama’s corner.
“You want to be heard. All (the candidates) are going to be rich, but you want them to have a policy with everyone in mind,” Mario Orosa said. “The president, literally, gave us a seat at the table. And that says something about his outlook.”