Tenai Benjamin is a single mom from Newark, Del. She works, goes to school and raises her 6-year-old daughter.
She makes a little more than minimum wage and has trouble making ends meet. One night in July of last year, she decided to vent her frustration in a letter to the President.
“It was just supposed to be like a journal entry,” she said. “I didn’t think it would be read.”
But this single mom’s letter catapulted her into the spotlight when President Obama responded to it Thursday by joining her on her lunch break.
President Obama was in Delaware to visit the tilting I-495 bridge and deliver remarks on the economy. President Obama read Benjamin’s letter, and according to White House staff, wrote “This is the person we are working for” on the bottom and sent the letter to his senior staff.
When Benjamin received a call from a White House Staff member, she did not believe it was real.
“I thought it was a prank until she said that they were calling in regards to the letter that I wrote,” Benjamin said.
She was told she would be meeting with someone, but it wasn’t until a few days before her lunch date she learned she would be dining with the President.
“…to actually be able to sit down and have lunch with the president…” she said, “It tells me my letter mattered.”
Benjamin and the President ate at the Charcoal Pit in Wilmington -- a favorite of Vice President Joe Biden.
“[President Obama] was so cool,” she said. “He went around the room shaking everyone’s hand and when he got to the table he told them how hungry he was and that his date was waiting on him.”
She and the President talked about her daughter, his experiences growing up, his mother and even his in-laws.
“It’s nice to see that they were able to make it…dealing with the same struggles and difficulties that I deal with,” Benjamin said.
Lunch ended and Tanei went back to work, but she said it was one lunch she would never forget.
“My letter may have been a lot about me and what I was dealing with as a person but for him to make the statement that this is the person that we’re working for, it means to me that you know he’s listening,” she said.
“I’m not the only person going through this situation,” Benjamin said. “People who are going through this situation…these are the people that he’s working for, not just me. I was just the one to write the letter.”