Stanford student watches State of Union with first lady

Gabriela Farfan

January 28, 2010 5:30:42 PM PST
A 19-year-old Stanford University student is returning to the Bay Area today after attending President Obama's State of the Union address with first lady Michelle Obama, an experience she described as "beyond words."

Gabriela Farfan, a freshman geology student at Stanford, was invited last week to watch the speech live, and sat in the first lady's box with about 20 other invitees while the president gave his speech.

Farfan was selected for the honor after receiving a scholarship through the Intel Science Talent Search for her research on why certain gemstones appear to change color when viewed from different angles.

She received a call from a White House official last week, took an overnight flight into Washington on Wednesday and spent the day on a tour of the capital that included a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a behind-the-scenes tour of the Smithsonian Institution where she met with research scientists.

"I've probably gotten three hours of sleep the past three days," she said.

The day culminated in a trip to the White House, where the invitees were taken to the theater room where Michelle Obama introduced herself and gave instructions on what would take place the rest of the night.

The group then traveled by motorcade to the House chambers where they sat and listened to the president's speech. Afterward, Farfan said, she told the first lady "thank you for being such a great role model" and briefly met the president, whom she told "I loved your speech."

Farfan said she got a picture with the president and first lady, who gave her a hug.

"It was all very, very exciting, just beyond words," she said.

Farfan said she didn't tell many people on the Stanford campus about her trip, but that her roommates were excited for her, and her professors granted her extensions on assignments due this week.

Farfan is scheduled to arrive back in the Bay Area this evening, and with midterms coming up next week, she plans to hit the books.

"I still have a lot of work to do," she said.