Whistling at the White House

Last Monday was one of those days where I wondered, “Is this really happening??”

Three weeks ago, I got an email from the White House. And I ignored it. I assumed it was spam, an election spoof or an ad for something entirely unrelated to THE White House. So I went on about my business until later that night when I started going through my email. I saw it again and opened it this time. The email was an invitation to attend South by South Lawn, a White House event for innovators and folks creating social change through positive means.


I went to one of my roommates. “I got this email from the White House. You think it’s legit?” We immediately took to google and twitter and researched the heck out of South by South Lawn (#SXSL). Turns out over 20,000 had been nominated and it was looking more and more likely that Whistling & Co. had been selected to attend.

I was jittery.

I kinda freaked out. ME? At the White House? Is this for real? Turns out, YES.

I showed up (sure that the only way I was getting in the White House would be as a detainee due to the bag of the bullet-casing key chains and necklaces in my purse). After waiting in line, I made my way through the White House and outside to the South Lawn. The afternoon was filled with connecting, observing, listening and taking in the grandeur of the sacred place I got to spend nine hours visiting. The lawn felt electric. After an afternoon of small performances, panel discussions and booths with all kinds of activities, all attendees met in front of the main stage for a performance from the Lumineers, a panel discussion with Barack Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio and the domestic debut of Leo’s new documentary. It was a great day.



I headed home with all the feelings. All of them. Humbled to spend the day with such all-stars. Totally honored to be invited to the White House. Motivated by the conversations. But also feeling a little sad. This community wouldn’t be necessary if sad things didn’t happen all the time. I wouldn’t be at the White House if my mom hadn’t died. I would have loved to call her as I headed home.

I reflected on the event and some of the people I met. So many people at the event had taken an idea and executed it. It was inspiring to speak with folks from all over the country that had overcome something or had set their minds to making change. Often, there was intention and strategy in their undertaking.

Our story is so different. I don’t know when Whistling & Company was ever founded.  This movement was a gradual ticking. An ever so slight increase each day that eventually became unmistakable. I feel like we were founded upon, that an effort became apparent to us. And in a way, that’s just how I prefer it. There is no strategy here. No formula. The first domino fell only to began a reaction that we’d do well to try to keep up with. It can’t be harnessed or predicted.  The community is the power, leadership and momentum. Steadily, we gather more and more Whistlers into our fold.

SXSL.pngThis community is a flower grown from a sorrowful soil.  I’m just jogging along the line of dominoes with you all, just as anxious to see where this may go.

If I’m totally honest, sometimes it’s hard to accept good things happening after someone dies. We feel guilty that good things happen to us or sad that it feels like good things happen because someone died. We want to share stories and life with loved ones who are in places only the angels can reach.  I think I was feeling a little of that too. I think that’s okay.

But the power of community swept in shortly thereafter. I told a friend how visiting the White House is a part of Plan B, a bitter, remote second from Plan A with my mom and my former life. I’d give it all back: The White House, dreamy Leo and the whole nine-hour VIP experience. Oh, how I’d trade the good things just to have her back.

I know that’s not an option.

My friend smiled. “You know, having the White House involved in your not-so-preferable-Plan-B isn’t the absolute worst Plan B.”

And she’s right. I’m so grateful for so much positive. I’d say we’re doing okay. The White House wasn’t horrible.

And Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t the worst cherry on top.

Let’s make a sh!t-ton of lemonade out of Plan B.




10 Replies to “Whistling at the White House”

    1. You ROCK!!!! This is so incredibly deserving. As they say, “life is what happens when you are making other plans.” While I would do anything to give you back your plan A, it is privilege to get to be a witness to your amazing plan B. You are an inspiration to all of us!


  1. I was a Tridelt at Knox with your mom. She was always kind, compassionate, and joyful. She was the kind of woman I hoped to be. You are obviously cut from the same bolt of cloth. I am so sorry for your loss – for the whole world’s loss really. My amazing and wonderful sister also fights the darkness. It is less overwhelming when we fight it together. You are making a difference. Thank you.


  2. Emily, as you continue to put one foot in front of the other and trust where God is leading, you bring the rest of us with you. Thank you for taking us in a positive direction of love, hope, and learning.


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