Dining with Obama

Pakuranga local Ranjna Patel ONZM was really excited when she received an invite to the most sought after dinner hosted for former US President Barack Obama at the Viaduct Events Centre on his recent visit to New Zealand.

How did I get here, was the first thought that crossed her mind when she was informed that she would be seated at the top level at the event centre along with a select 100 invitees. The rest of the 900 special guests were seated at another level at the invitation-only extravaganza.

“I had to leave my husband and son who accompanied me since we were all invited separately. I was seated with (mental health advocate and former All Black) Sir John Kirwan and it was a huge privilege. We were all asked how we would like to be addressed.

“There was so much security and we were told that we could take a picture with Mr Obama and have a minute or two each with him but we were all so tongue-tied,” she laughs.

“Obama is just the way you see him on television, very real.

“He started his speech saying that he was on a scouting mission for Michelle and his daughters Malia and Sasha to come out to New Zealand. I really do hope that Michelle Obama makes a trip here next year. I have already spoken to one of the women’s organisations to invite her here.

“Obama is all for women’s empowerment. He said that if there were only women leaders of countries around the world for two years, we’d see a lot less conflict and more children out of poverty, and the world would be in a better place.”

Talking about the reason why he first took to playing golf, the former US President said that he couldn’t walk anywhere in the open without being crowded or shadowed.

“He said he started playing the game only because he wanted to walk in open spaces and the golf course was the only place where he could do it-even if he had security hiding in the bush sometimes.”

Topping the talk was an fusion dinner prepared by the internationally renowned Kiwi chef Peter Gordon.