• Invited to share views on immigration
By Vic Wintriss
Solana Beach Presbyterian Church pastor Mike McClenahan was in his hotel room after attending a wedding late on a recent Sunday night and decided to check his email. To his surprise it was from the White House with an invitation to meet with President Barack Obama and his senior staff “to discuss the moral urgency of passing immigration reform…” and a request to RSVP no later than noon Monday…the next day!
In McClenahan’s own words: “Of course this was a joke. Why would I get an invitation? So I sent out emails to friends and by Monday morning they confirmed it was real…I got the golden ticket! This was a rare opportunity and if I was available it would be worth the trip. Of course I said yes, not knowing why I was invited or what kind of meeting this was. How could I say no?”
McClenahan thinks that the invitation was extended as a result of an immigration reform roundtable discussion that he moderated with Fuller Seminary President Richard Mouw in March 2013 and an op-ed piece that he wrote for the U-T in early November.
After a red-eye flight to Washington, DC, McClenahan joined the President and Vice President for a small gathering in the Oval Office. The President greeted everyone warmly. The Vice President greeted McClenahan and said loudly, “ “Great hair, Mike. Mr. President, if I had Mike’s hair I’d have been re-elected!”
“The President began by thanking everyone for coming,” McClenahan said. “The President looked tired…it was a rough week fixing a broken website and low approval ratings…but he had a natural, comfortable smile as if we were with friends. He shared his sole agenda: to pass immigration reform soon than later: ‘It will pass in a year or six months, but if it passes sooner there will be fewer who are hurt by our broken immigration system.’
We spent the next hour or so sharing our urgency to get this done. It was very relaxed, no political posturing or formality. I was impressed by the ease of conversation. And yet each person spoke with passion on behalf of the millions they were mobilizing for this effort, from Catholic bishops to Southern Baptists.”
After a half hour or so… “We left the meeting with handshakes, promising to continue our work and to pray for the President. ‘I can use all the prayers I can get,’ he said. From one human being to another, I felt compassion for the President. No one wants to be him this week. He has so many plates to spin. How does he fall asleep at night with all the questions and concerns he carries with him?”
McClenahan returned to Washington several weeks later to participate in the immigration reform “Fast For Reform” in an attempt to raise awareness of the immigration policies in this country.
As a fifth-generation Californian, he is deeply concerned with immigration issues and hopes that he can be part of change which will benefit all Americans.
For more information, visit
or call McClenahan at