A Seat at the Table

Senior Nana Agyemang recounts her experience attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

Nana Agyemang
Nana Agyemang said introducing herself to the president was the best moment of her night at the White House correspondents’ dinner. (Courtesy of Nana Agyemang)
May 04, 2016

By Julyssa Lopez

Senior Nana Agyemang’s phone is still going off. Her family members have been calling from Ghana, her friends have been texting and even strangers have started following her on social media.

Most seem to want to know one thing: How was Saturday’s White House correspondents’ dinner?

“It’s surreal to believe that I was feet away from the first black president of the U.S. and other people with such tremendous influence,” Ms. Agyemang said.

You may have caught some of the action when Ms. Agyemang took over the university’s Snapchat this weekend to share moments from the event. She got to attend one of the journalism’s most glamorous nights as the 2016 recipient of the George Washington University-White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) scholarship.

Each WHCA winner had a few minutes to interact with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama directly. Ms. Agyemang was whisked over to a room with several other students and had her picture taken with the Obamas. She remembers having tears in her eyes.

“I got to tell him a little about myself, and that was more than enough for me. Just being able to hug them did more than words could ever have done. Both the Obamas are amazing—and that’s just after talking to them for seconds,” said the Newark, N.J. native.

Ms. Agyemang, center, poses for a selfie with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. (Courtesy of Nana Agyemang)

Introducing herself to the president was the best moment of the night, but Ms. Agyemang had more than a few other noteworthy interactions with the WHCA dinner attendees. The Washington Post’s Maura Judkis included her in a style roundup, and actor Will Smith stepped in for a selfie with the SMPA senior. Ms. Agyemang also met journalism stars—such as Megyn Kelly, Matt Murray and Major Garrett—and celebrities Emma Watson, Rosario Dawson and Jesse Williams, among others.

At one point in the evening, actress and comedian Tracee Ellis Ross, Diana Ross's daughter, approached Ms. Agyemang and asked: “Do I know you from somewhere because you look really familiar. And if I don't know you, I feel like I should because you're doing big things.” Ms. Ross even took a few moments to repeat her words for the university’s Snapchat account.

“She is truly inspirational to so many young women of color like myself,” Ms. Agyemang said.

The event also was a learning experience for Ms. Agyemang. There was plenty of glitz and glamor involved, but she explains she was paying attention to how the evening reflected the journalism environment.

Ms. Agyemang, who aspires to be a multimedia journalist shedding light on women in Africa, noticed that there were few people of color at the event, and few made it into media coverage.

“Like my friend [senior] Kristen Barnes says,  the world of journalism needs reporters of color to celebrate black culture through journalism because it is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to widespread portrayal of our community,” Ms. Agyemang said. “I hope I will continue to inspire others to chase their dreams.”