When President Joe Biden gave his Independence Day message on COVID-19, millions watched on TV. Oakland firefighter and paramedic Gustavo Gonzalez watched in person, on the White House lawn.
“An honor and a privilege to be there to represent my department and the National Association of Hispanic FIrefighters,” he said.
Gonzalez, first generation Mexican American, born and raised in San Jose, chatted with the president of the United States.
“It was a brief conversation. We were able to thank him and the first lady for their continuous support of firefighters all around the country,” he said.
Get a weekly recap of the latest San Francisco Bay Area housing news. Sign up for NBC Bay Area’s Housing Deconstructed newsletter.
Gonzalez, and other front line workers, were honored for more than helping the sick, and the injured.
“We’re also active in our community,” said Gonzalez. “When we’re not working we are mentors, and role models to the youth in Oakland.”
Gonzalez and his fiancée Kristal Alaniz , who’s getting her masters in education at San Jose state, hit it off with the first lady, who has her doctorate in education.
“She’s very personable, very genuine and engaging,” said Alaniz. “She came up to us and shook all her hands.”
A memorable evening, and a serious message from Biden -- the fight against COVID is nowhere near over. He had hoped 70% of Americans would have at least one shot by now. That didn’t happen, but he's not giving up.
“For yourself, for your loved ones, for your community, for your country,” the president said.
A message Gonzalez can get behind.
“I just like to encourage everyone to continue to socially distance when applicable and make sure you get a vaccine if you haven’t yet,” he said.