Personal Lives

Young small-town lawyers credit thank-you letter for invitation to White House state dinner


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When they got an email earlier this month inviting them to a state dinner at the White House in honor of the president of France, two young lawyers practicing at small firms in Huntsville, Ala., thought there must be some mistake.

Or perhaps it was a scam? The invitation did ask them to send in personal information to get a security clearance for the Feb. 11 event.

Even after Caleb Ballew called the White House and confirmed that he and his wife, Kourtney Ballew, were actually invited, she was convinced only when they arrived at the White House after an 11-hour drive and were admitted, Above the Law reports.

The couple credits a heartfelt thank-you note to President Barack Obama for the memorable evening. When Kourtney Ballew needed surgery during a period in which the new bar admittees were not covered by medical insurance, financial disaster loomed. But health care reforms promoted by President Obama made it possible for her to get treatment at an affordable price under COBRA insurance provisions. In November 2012, Caleb Ballew wrote Obama what he describes to AL.com as “a pretty emotional letter.”

Never expecting it to resound in the Oval Office, the 28-year-old was stunned to get the email invitation more than a year later. And Kourtney Ballew, 29, who had known nothing about the thank-you, was even more startled, the news website reports.

“When he said ‘We’re going to have dinner with the president,’ I said ‘The president of what?’” she recounts.

But there were more surprises to come. In the receiving line at the White House, Obama recognized the couple’s name and said they would be sitting at his table. And the University of Mississippi law grads were indeed seated there, along with others including the president of France.

During the meal, Caleb Ballew had a chance to chat with the wife of comedian Stephen Colbert. By the end of the meal, Kourtney Ballew had also found her stride.

As Mary J. Blige sang, Kourtney Ballew and Michelle Obama began singing the lyrics to each other.

“I looked over and Kourtney and the First Lady, for a lack of a better word, were jamming out together,” Caleb told AL.com.

Says Kourtney Ballew: “I don’t know how this happened. It’s just spectacular.”

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