Prairie Light’s co-owner Jan Weissmiller said the local book store has hosted presidential hopefuls in the past, but Thursday was the first day a sitting president stopped by.
Before leaving Iowa City after his health care reform speech at the University of Iowa Field House, President Barack Obama made an impromptu visit to Prairie Lights, a book store he also mentioned by name during his speech.
Weissmiller said she was on the phone with a reporter from the Washington Post when a man came in to the store and asked for the owner. Weissmiller said she ignored him until he said this:
“I’m with the White House and you’re going to get a visitor.”
Weissmiller said she and her staff tried to act naturally, but she couldn’t help but gush a little bit when the president walked in the door.
“The first thing I said was, ‘We’re so proud of you,’” Weissmiller recounted.
Weissmiller said Obama, accompanied by an entourage of approximately 50 people, met with the Prairie Lights staff and shook their hands. Obama said he liked to visit book stores when he could and wanted to pick something up for his two daughters, Weissmiller said.
After taking a detour upstairs and joking about picking up a copy of Karl Rove’s book, Obama went downstairs to the children’s section. Weissmiller said she didn’t accompany him so he could have some space.
The president purchased two children’s books, “Secret of Zoom” and “Journey to the River Sea,” according to Prairie Light’s staff. He picked up a “Star Wars” pop-up book for the 6-year-old son of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
“He said it was a nice bookstore,” Weissmiller said. “He was really sweet. It’s just amazing that he came here. He was really, really sweet.”
Weissmiller said former Democratic presidential hopefuls Al Gore, John Kerry, John Edwards and Howard Dean have visited the book store in the past.