Hogenson hails to the chief
WORTHINGTON -- Talk about an experience to remember.
Debra Hogenson of Brewster, the current Nobles County DFL chair, had the opportunity to meet and be photographed with President Barack Obama during a June 1 event in Minneapolis.
The chance arose thanks to a recommendation from Blair Jasper, the First Congressional District organizer for Obama for America.
"There were about eight or 10 of us that were invited to personally meet the president in this photo session," Hogenson said Tuesday. "We were all volunteers on his campaign -- you might say we were under-recognized volunteers, or people Obama might want to recognize because they had worked hard and hadn't received recognition.
"The Minnesota campaign people recommended the names for this photo session, and Blair was the one who nominated me," Hogenson said. "I've mentored young people in politics and in health and human services, and Blair is someone I've mentored -- and he's very, very good at what he does."
Hogenson learned in advance of the June 1 event that she would likely have the chance to meet and have her photo taken with Obama. On the evening of June 1 -- and after Jasper's nomination was accepted along with a thorough background check -- she showed up at The Bachelor Farmer, a restaurant owned by two sons of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton.
"He (Obama) did three things in the Twin Cities that day," Hogenson said. "He addressed employees of Honeywell in Golden Valley about his veterans' employment initiative. Then, there was a fundraiser upstairs at the restaurant owned by the young Dayton brothers. That was a pretty high-end thing -- a $3,000- to $4,000-a-plate kind of thing."
Hogenson and other volunteers were seated at the bar in the restaurant's basement, among "secret service with their black suits and earpieces" as well as a campaign advance man who was ensuring the event ran smoothly.
"He put us in line and just by luck, I was first," Hogenson said. "I had this view down the bar and I saw him (Obama) coming down the steps, smiling and talking. I was excited, but the woman next to me was in an open sweat. To me, it was more like Christmas and you know it's going to be one of the best gifts you ever got."
Obama promptly received a standing ovation upon entering the room. The president smiled, and thanked the volunteers for coming and for their work.
Then, it was Hogenson's moment.
"I went up to the president and he put his arm around me, and he said, 'Everybody gets hugs today,'" Hogenson said. "He's such a nice man, and he just put us at ease immediately. There are people that you can tell right away are crabby, and people that you can tell like life. This is a guy who enjoys people and enjoys life."
The unexpected hug resulted in what Hogenson said is "the deer in the headlights look that's in the picture." What followed was a brief conversation.
"I told him, 'Mr. President, my nieces idolize you.' He said. 'What are their names?' I said, 'Monica, Maria and Katie.' He said, 'Well, you tell Monica, Maria and Katie hello from me."
Hogenson quickly left the restaurant following the photo opportunity, as was proper poto
"I turned my phone back on and called my nieces and told them hello from the president," she said. "You could have heard the squeals halfway across the state; they were just over the moon."
The event in Minneapolis was actually the third time Hogenson met Obama. On the first occasion, Obama was a U.S. senator who came to a suburban Twin Cities high school to campaign for-then U.S. Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar.
"My son, Paul, and I went to the rally for Amy and went in the wrong door," Hogenson remembered. "We were walking to the gym and passed Sen. Obama. I just said, 'Hello, senator," and he said "hello" and that was it."
Then, in 2008, Hogenson was door-knocking for Obama in Sioux Falls, S.D., during his presidential campaign. Obama paid a visit to Sioux Falls, and Hogenson was in the crowd.
"I had asked the staff if I could get his autograph on a piece of fabric that I was going to use for a quilt square," she said. "I was introduced as one of his volunteers - and now that quilt is going to be auctioned off at the Humphrey/Mondale Day Dinner (the Minnesota DFL's annual fundraiser)."
Those meetings with Obama were special, Hogenson said, but not as special as the one less than two weeks ago.
"Those other times I met him, he was a senator and he was a candidate," she said. "This time, he was the president."
Daily Globe Managing Editor Ryan McGaughey may be reached at