HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Plans to spend the summer at home in Hattiesburg quickly changed for Southern Miss senior Sawyer Walters when he was offered an internship in Washington, D.C.
Sawyer Walters, a criminology major, is the chairman of the College Republicans at the University of Southern Mississippi. Walters said when he was offered an opportunity to intern for Congressman Steven Palazzo, it was something he couldn't pass up.
"I owe it all to Congressman Palazzo and his staff," Walters said.
"I used to think, okay, they vote on a couple things a year, that's it," Walters said. "Seeing the congressman and his staff work everyday, go into countless hearings, committees, different meetings with people from here and seeing everything they do and being a part of that, that changed my perspective on everything."
Walters said Congressman Palazzo invited him, along with two other guests, to the annual White House picnic. That's when Walters' lapel caught President Donald Trump's eye.
"He was like, 'What's that eagle?' I told him it was the University of Southern Mississippi, where I go to school. He asked me where I was from, I told him Hattiesburg, Mississippi where I was born and raised," Walters said. "He was like well are we going to get a picture? And I said 'yes sir' and I asked Mrs. Melania, 'would you like to hop in?' and she said of course."
The 45th President of the United States was not the only chance encounter that day. Walters also met Vice President Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump.
"I saw Ivanka first and took a picture with her and was like oh wow, that was really cool," Walters said. "And then when I saw the vice president, I was like holy cow, that's the second in charge of our country."
"And then President Trump. I was like, he's the most powerful man in the world and I got to shake his hand," Walters said.
But, that photograph with the president almost didn't happen. A reminder for all to always keep your cell phones charged.
"My phone was dead and there was a random guy behind me and I said 'hey, if he comes over here will you get my picture?'" said Walters. "So after we spoke, it was disbelief, like I was on the president's lawn and spoke with him."
Sawyer said he always planned to join the military after graduation like his brother, who is a Marine. He said now, with the experience thanks to Congressman Palazzo, his next move may be back to Washington, D.C.
"I always joke with my family in 2032 I'll be running for President," said Walters. "Now seeing this side of politics, I think that it would be awesome to be a politician, I think I can do a lot for South Mississippi. But, I got to see all the Secret Service and military men and women and that's still something I want to do."