Hillenbrand Given Red Carpet Treatment in White House Visit

Laura Hillenbrand, author of the No. 1 bestseller, "Seabiscuit," visited The White House on Wednesday, May 28, answering questions about her book before a packed crowd in the auditorium.

Hillenbrand, whose book has been made into a major motion picture that is scheduled to premiere in late July, was invited to The White House by Clay Johnson, Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel and Deputy to the Chief of Staff, and Eric Motley, Deputy Associate Director of Presidential Personnel.

"The visit was amazing," Hillenbrand said. "They treated me like royalty, and I'm so grateful. The success of the book, and the making of the movie, have largely been abstract for me, because my health has not allowed me to go out and experience it. It was so wonderful to be able to go to the White House--which is only a couple of miles from my house--and have a firsthand experience of how much people love the Biscuit. I only wish Charles and Marcela Howard, Tom Smith, Red Pollard and George Woolf could have been there with me. They earned it."

Although the event was open only to White House officials and staffers, the auditorium was filled to capacity. "The President couldn't come, as he was signing the tax bill," Hillenbrand said. "All the attendees had read the book, and the questions were great. People seemed to love racing; one person had just bought horses so she could try to breed a Derby winner. Clay Johnson took me to lunch in The White House mess reserved for the President and cabinet officials. I had a wonderful meal, then they gave me a tour of part of the West Wing. It was a great day."

After leaving The White House, Hillenbrand had one final surprise awaiting her, which brought her magical day to an appropriate conclusion. "When we finally left, we took a wrong turn and ended up in the old part of Pennsylvania Avenue that is now blocked to traffic," she said. "We pulled over and no one seemed to care that we were there. There was a police horse there, saddled but without a rider, tethered to a trailer, and I was so drawn to it that I hardly turned my head to look back at the White House. It's been a long time since I was close to a horse. I spent about 45 minutes just petting him. Even after all that in the White House, I'd really rather be around horses!"