Each year the White House Easter Egg Roll extravaganza brings together visitors from around the nation to spend the day on the South Lawn of the White House with the president, first lady, musicians, celebrities, and athletes. This year the White House hosted over 35,000 people for the event which featured performances from Idina Menzel, the first-ever fun run at the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama, a friendly game of basketball between Shaquille O’Neill and President Barack Obama, story time with the cast of Black-ish, and appearances from Beyonce, Jay-Z, and their daughter, Blue Ivy. Behind the scenes of the entire operation is Ellie Schafer, Special Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Visitor’s Center.
According to Ms. Schafer who joined the Obama campaign in 2007, First Lady Michelle Obama “gave me some pretty specific instructions, the first one was, we wanna make sure that it’s very family friendly, focused on a lot of fun activities for the kids. We have sports, we have reading, we have a main stage, things that people have never seen before.”
The Obamas have made clear they wanted to turn 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue into the People’s House from the beginning. “When Barack and I first got here, one of the goals that we had was to open up the White House to as many people from as many backgrounds as possible.” With the help of, the Obamas were able to accomplish that goal. To do it, they decided to use a lottery system for handing out tickets to the Egg Roll. The result? Visitors came to the White House from all 50 states, from all kinds backgrounds and cultures, making this event one of the most diverse in White House history.
Tommy McFly, radio host and MC of the Easter Egg Roll, says Schafer “has 35,000 guests, A-level stars, and the leader of the free world and his wife roaming around but she is just always cool and calm. Everybody else who is part of the crew feels that too.”
Ms. Schafer comes from a Republican family. Her father Ed Schafer was President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Agriculture and former governor of North Dakota. She is a former aide to John Kerry’s presidential campaign and ran her own political consulting company in San Francisco before joining up with then Senator Obama. She is married to Heather Rothenberg, a former Transportation Department highway specialist.
This is the last Easter Egg Roll for the Obama family. Michelle Obama, speaking to the crowd said, “Today is a little bit bittersweet for us, because this is the Obama administration’s last Easter Egg Roll.” Schafer teared up as she surveyed the lawn watching families head towards the gates at the end of the final Obama Easter Egg Roll.