HATHAWAY — Alanah Poullard, a kindergarten student at Hathaway High School, is gaining national attention after she asked President Barack Obama to write a school excuse note for her teacher during a recent visit to the White House.
Alanah’s photograph with President Obama writing the excuse was chosen as the White House “Photo of the Day.” It has since appeared in dozens of newspapers and on websites and news broadcasts across the country, including CNN, “Good Morning America” and the BBC in London. It has also gained attention from “Inside Edition.”
“It has gone viral,” her father, the Rev. Dr. Stacy Poullard said Monday. “We’ve gotten calls from the U.K., South Africa ... I’ve got classmates I haven’t seen in 40 years and all of a sudden they knew who I was.”
Poullard said the attention may be more than his 5-year-old daughter realizes now, but believes it is all happening for a reason.
“Some things happen for a reason and some when you know you are blessed,” he said. “For her to have access to the president, his residence and dog at such an early age, it can only help give her a better outlook on life. She’s been exposed to things most adults never even know about. She sat in chairs that Dolly Madison and Abraham Lincoln sat in.”
Alanah asked for a note to show her kindergarten teacher last Thursday while she attended a Wounded Warriors program at the White House with her father and mother, Army Major Yolanda Wise Poullard. Her mother was wounded in Afghanistan and is undergoing rehabilitation at military facilities in Washington, D.C.. and Bethesda, Md.
The note, written on official presidential stationery, simply reads, “Please excuse Alanah from school. She was with me.” Signed Barack Obama.
“I’ve never gotten an excuse like that,” teacher Jennifer Howell said. “I have tears in my eyes talking about it. I am so proud of her. What an amazing thing.”
Howell shared the note and showed photographs of Alanah’s visit to the White House with the class Monday morning.
Not only did Alanah get a personal written excuse from the president, but she was also given a private tour of the White House during her four-hour visit. She also got to sit in the president’s chair in the private White House movie theater and play with first dog Bo.
“She is the first kid outside of the family to even get to sit in the president’s chair in the theater,” Poullard said.
Poullard said as soon as the family walked into the East Wing of the White House, security personnel asked Alanah if she would like to see something and took her away. For 45 minutes, the Poullards had no idea where their daughter was, but figured she was in safe hands.
“We later found out she’d went all over the White House and had taken a bunch of pictures,” he said.
Poullard jokes that he and his wife only got to see the first floor of the White House.
Alanah’s favorite part of the tour was playing with the Obamas’ dog, Bo.
“I love Bo,” she said with a big grin. “I got to play with him. My daddy only got to pet him. I want to buy Bo from President Obama.
“Bo is the greatest dog because he didn’t lick people. He just wiggled his tail,” she added.
Before her tour, Poullard helped his daughter write a note to the president asking for an excuse for her teacher. The family had doubts the request would be granted.
“We really didn’t even think we’d get to meet the president,” Poullard said. “Then all of a sudden the president and Vice President Joe Biden came out of room and started walking toward the group. As soon as he saw Alanah, he yelled out “I got your letter.”
“She froze because she didn’t know what to do, then she took off and ran to meet him. She just threw her arms around him and he picked her up and put her back down. By then he was about 50 feet away and they hugged and all I could do was cry. I’m a daddy and this is hardly something anyone gets to do.”
Poullard said he doesn’t know what his daughter and the president talked about, but says “they had a conversation.”
“She watched and stayed close to him,” he said. “It was as though they made an instant friendship. Before he left, he turned and told her, “Now let’s take care of that note.”
As for her encounter with the president, Alanah said, “I liked running up to him. He hugged me. He’s my best friend.”
The Poullard’s have been invited back to the White House for the Christmas tree lightning and Easter egg roll. Stacy Poullard, who has been preaching since 1983, may also be invited back to do the opening prayer for Congress.
Poullard plans to chronicle all the photographs, newspaper clippings and the now famous blue dress her mother bought Alanah to wear that day as keepsakes for when she is older. As for the note, he plans to put it in a safety deposit box.
“One of these days she can have it when she knows what to do with it,” he said of the note.
For now, she has copies of the note to share with family and friends.