This article appeared in the April 28, 2023 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Ten-year-old Nina’s visit to the Oval Office

Courtesy of Marek Wałkuski
Polish Radio reporter Marek Wałkuski and his daughter, Nina Wałkuska (front row), in the White House briefing room on “Take Your Child to Work Day,” April 27, 2023.
Linda Feldmann
Washington Bureau Chief

“On your last trip to Poland, what was your favorite thing there?” 10-year-old Nina Wałkuska shouted to President Joe Biden as he headed into the White House.

The president stopped, peeked inside, then gestured to Nina. Would she like to see the Oval Office? Moments later, off she went, along with the son of a CNN cameraman, for a personal tour of the world’s most exclusive workspace.

Her dad, Polish Radio reporter Marek Wałkuski, had brought Nina with him Thursday for “Take Your Child to Work Day” at the White House. Nina was prepared with a question for press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at the “kids’ briefing” that morning with offspring of White House reporters, but she wasn’t called on. Soon she found herself within earshot of the president himself and seized the opportunity.

Suffice it to say, the grown-ups who cover President Biden don’t get rewarded with a trip to the Oval when they shout a question. But off Nina went, her stunned dad left behind. He handed her his phone so she could take selfies, but it was confiscated for the duration of the visit.

I encountered the Wałkuskis on the White House grounds soon after, and Nina was in a crouch, her head in her hands.

“I think she’s in shock,” Mr. Wałkuski said, gushing with pride. “I want her to write about her experience, but she says she can’t remember anything.”

With time, details began to emerge. Mr. Biden had shown the kids pictures of his family, including a photo of his grandson under the Resolute Desk, like the iconic picture of John F. Kennedy Jr. Nina got to sit in the president’s chair and pose for pictures under the desk. White House photographers snapped pix, which Mr. Wałkuski and his wife eagerly await.

Meanwhile, in Poland, Nina is suddenly famous, as the media have covered her adventure via Mr. Wałkuski’s tweets. My retweet of his post on Nina and Mr. Biden got a lot of love.

Does Nina want to be a journalist when she grows up? Actually, her dad said Friday, “she wants to be a theoretical physicist, like Sheldon on ‘The Big Bang Theory.’”

I have no doubt this fourth grader at a local public Montessori school will succeed at whatever she sets her mind to. But maybe she’ll turn her sights to journalism. We need her.

This article appeared in the April 28, 2023 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 04/28 edition
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