Then, unexpectedly, the president kept the meeting going, turning to talk with each survivor, one at a time. When he turned to Esther, she introduced herself, shook his hand, and explained that she had escaped from Boko Haram. He took a moment to empathize, thanked her and then turned to the next survivor to hear their story.
The entire exchange between Esther and the president took less than a minute, but as I watched the interaction later, I couldn’t help but be struck by the incredible courage of this young woman. You see, Esther had never before traveled outside of Nigeria. She had never been to the United States, and until a few days before the meeting took place, she had never been on an airplane. Esther speaks Hausa and knows only a little English.
As is the case with many meetings with the president, details were not released in advance for security reasons, so Esther had only a few minutes notice before she walked into the Oval Office. Yet when the moment came for her to speak, with cameras and microphones from the world’s largest media outlets pointed in her direction and the attention of the president, his staff, and all of her fellow survivors on her, Esther didn’t hesitate. She spoke clearly and boldly, as did many of the other survivors at the White House that day. I have worked in Washington for the better part of a decade and have conducted hundreds of media interviews. Yet I know I have hesitated over far less.