A brush with royalty at the presidential precinct

I have never appreciated a spring break more than I did this semester.

Fortunately, my program follows the same academic calendar as the College of William and Mary, meaning we got a beautiful 5 days off from work and class. With Ronald Reagan National Airport within walking distance from the program’s Crystal City apartments, I booked a last minute ticket to Orlando, Florida to meet my empty-nester parents living it up in Walt Disney World.

While I should have taken this time to relax, sleep-in, catch up on school work and mooch off home-cooked meals and free laundry service, the fast-paced lifestyle I’ve become accustomed to from living in DC made me eager to go to every Disney and Universal park, despite the awful spring break herds of college students and families.

I felt removed from my 9-5 work day as I was immersed in quality family time and a stress-free environment. I refreshed my email while waiting for a ride at Universal Studios, where I realized I got an email from Jaime Settle, Professor of my DC program, with the subject line reading, “Want to meet His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales? (I’m so serious right now.)”

Why yes, yes I do.

In the email, she explained the invitation she received to send one student from my program to serve as the head student social media liaison for the event.

What is the event, exactly?

The Presidential Precinct is a coalition of six landmark institutions including four historic sites, The University of Virginia, and the College. Their primary goal is to promote democracy and diplomacy around the globe. They serve as the sponsors of the event, the Magna Carta 2015 Global Empowerment through Rule of Law forum, a mouthful that may be overwhelming. The event takes place in the National Archives in Washington, DC with prestigious leaders from over 20 countries. The major topics of discussion were Economic Development, Gender Equality and Climate Change.

The event heavily relied on social media to get the word out. Through primarily Twitter and Facebook, Presidential Precinct advertised the event. They had a live-stream set up on their website, which more than 1,500 people from 34 countries watched.

On the day of the event, I showed up at 6:00 a.m. eager to meet the team and not really expecting what was about to happen. The staff, only knowing me for a good hour, handed over the official @PresPrecinct Twitter, expecting me to live-tweet throughout the day.

The event started at 9:00 a.m. sharp. The next two and half hours consisted of the most inspiring, thoughtful, inquisitive speeches I have ever had the privilege of hearing. I sat in the back, among U.Va. interns responsible for Facebook and photography, mesmerized at this opportunity.

I was responsible for tweeting pictures, direct quotes and promoting the future speakers. I had to quickly find Twitter handles to tag the speakers and their organizations, as well as utilize hashtags to receive more of a following.

Daria with Baroness
Daria Grastara and Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne. COURTESY PHOTO / PRESIDENTIAL PRECINCT


I sat a few feet away from Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne, a member of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom Parliament. She previously served as a Member of the House of Commons and in the European Parliament. She spoke of women’s issues, declaring “the lives of ordinary people need much, much more. Especially women.”

The best part? She complimented my outfit.

Finally — the moment everyone in the National Archives was waiting for all day — the Prince of Wales arrived. Because I was technically staff, I was a part of the welcoming committee that met him at the door to escort him into the event.

The first thing he said after shaking hands with the directors: “So what is this event?” I had to hold back a laugh.

He made his way around the room, shaking hands and speaking with individual leaders about their national concerns. Once he made his rounds, he took a group photo with all staff and honored guests. He was kind, modest and so sweet, which is absolutely incredible for a member of the Royal Family.

Precinct pic
The forum met in the National Archives to discuss Economic development, gender equality and climate change. COURTESY PHOTO / PRESIDENTIAL PRECINCT


I left the event at 1:00 p.m., a half an hour after the Prince left and guests were heading out. I got into my Uber and could not even process everything that had happened. It was an unbelievable opportunity and just another example of why I love the William and Mary in Washington Program.


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