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Bethel Staff Member Meets President Obama

Bethel Staff Member Meets President Obama

A view of President Barack Obama from Tzong-Huei Li's seat at the recent Town Hall Meeting in St. Paul. (Photo courtesy of Tzong-Heui)

As Malia Obama starts her college visits, CAS Admissions Mail Coordinator Tzong-Huei Li has done her part to get the President’s daughter to consider Bethel: Li gave a viewbook to Malia’s father.

Li was invited to attend President Barack Obama’s recent Town Hall Meeting at Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis, after she sent an email to the White House in the fall. She thought it might be nice to give the president a gift if she got the chance, so she took two Bethel University polo shirts for him and a viewbook for his daughters along with the book “Repenting of Religion” by Greg Boyd, her pastor at Woodland Hills Church. The Campus Store helped Li make the gift look presentable and off she went on June 26 to attend the Town Hall meeting.

Her story began more than a year ago when her daughter became ill and faced some severe health challenges. Because of the recent healthcare changes from the Affordable Care Act, Li’s daughter was still under her parents’ health insurance and they were able to afford the best care for her. “If we didn’t have the coverage for her, I don’t know what we would have done,” Li says.

In October, Li sent emails to the president, the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and Congress telling them that the Affordable Care Act had made a big difference to their family. She received standard replies and didn’t think much more about it – until she got a phone call recently.

When she answered the phone, the caller said he was a White House aide to the president and invited Li, along with her husband Jason Li, professor of psychology at Bethel, and their daughter to the Town Hall Meeting. At first she thought it was a scam, but when she asked why she was selected, the aide referenced the email she had sent to the President and later sent her an email to confirm the invitation.

Jason Li was in California and their daughter was in Hong Kong, so Tzong-Huei invited a church friend to accompany her, with permission from the White House. When they arrived, she was taken to a special area where she waited with Gov. Mark Dayton and six other letter writers to meet the President. When Obama arrived, he talked to each of them, and when he got to Li, he gave her a hug and asked about her daughter. A White House photographer took their picture and an aide took her gift to give to the President. “I had no idea I would have an opportunity to talk personally with the President so I did not think of the invitation as a big deal. But when it happened, I was very excited!” she said.