Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I met The President.

The other night I received an email from the Hillary Clinton campaign. "Bill in Macon Georgia" the subject line read. I opened it to reveal an invitation to hear him speak in less than a mere 48 hours. Immediatly I began mulling over this strange opportunity. Macon is almost a hundred miles from Athens and gas is nearly three dollars a gallon. Sarah would have to go to daycare because I couldn't imagine taking her with me for something like that...might as well not go. I had the day off on Monday so that wouldn't be a problem. Still I thought.

I remember very clearly my twelfth grade government class because it was in the fall of 1992 when Bill Clinton was running for the Presidency. I received extra credit for registering to vote, and because I was older than most of my classmates, having turned 18 in September, I was able to cast my first vote as an adult American citizen in that November election. I voted for Bill. I remember also that we discussed in great detail the duties and responsibilities of the President that fall in class, and I sat there in awe of the things we learned. Often I have wondered, what would it be like to be him?

I RSVP to the Hillary campaign an answer of "maybe." And this morning I still did not know if I'd go. But then the thought occurred to me: How often do I get a chance to see or hear or simply be in the presence of someone like this? Someone who has devoted the majority of his life working in government, in politics, in making a difference in the lives of Americans and so many others, like the woman from Kosovo who tearfully thanked him tonight for all he had done to free her family and her people. I went. I drove down there and after waiting for over two hours, I wound up sitting in the second row only about fifteen feet away from him.

Many different people have many different opinions of Bill Clinton. I always liked him regardless of the mistakes he'd made. He's a human being and human beings by default are absolutely not perfect. I'm not either. He screwed up and learned from it. I've done the same thing in my own life. We all have, in one way or another. Months ago, I watched a Q/A with Hillary. The woman interviewing her asked her a very pointed question: "How did you get through the very public trouble in your marriage?" Right then and there she had my support. She answered her faith, and that it was hard, that she wasn't normally an overly expressive person in public but that she had to be during that time and it was uncomfortable. The look on her face told the story of tough times that she had faced. How we deal with adversity can be the measure of who we are and what we are made of. If the thing that is closest to you erupts into a drastic hot flame and you've still got the gumption to pull yourself up and move forward in front of the world, then I think you've got what it takes to do just about anything.

Bill is an incredibily intelligent man. He spoke for two hours tonight and I listened to him quote facts, numbers, statistics, and people. He told stories and illustrated points. Not a note anywhere. No written speech, no teleprompter. Just him and his experience and his pizazz. He's an amazing speaker, eloquent and fluid. He gave five minute answers to questions that most of us didn't even get the first time around! He has a charming sense of humor. He clearly wants the best for America. When he was in the White House, Americans enjoyed mostly peace and prosperity. Times were good for the middle class; for me.

When it was all said and done he began shaking hands with those of us up front and he dealt with the mob of people very well. I can only imagine the stories he hears, the jeers he endures, he people he comes face to face with who have come from every corner of the globe. When they get close to him they want to tell him what's on their hearts and minds. I was nearly pushed over tonight by several people who were leaping for a chance to get an inch closer, to touch his hand, say hello, or exchange a glance with him. It was truly amazing. The only thing I felt like saying to him was that I had been proud of the job he'd done as President and that I was still glad that I'd cast my very first vote for him. When the time came, when he was standing inches from me, the guy behind me, from another country, was all over my body behind me, his arm pressing into the side of my body as he reached for President Clinton's hand. Thank you the man shouted. Thank you for what you did for my country. The man kept talking and as he did the President reached for my hand and held it there for several long moments; trying to move along but trying to give this man his attention too. Finally he looked down at me and smiled and said a simple "hey," tightened his grip and shook my hand formally and moved down the line. It was a mad throng of folks from all over, peaceful but determined. All of us were shocked that we were actually there, experiencing what we were.

The last week of my life has been surreal and this is just one more experience that adds to that strangeness. But that's how life is when we get out there and live it fully.

I was able to snap many great pics of him and the event and have uploaded one to share with you all. Now, can I hear you say: HILL -LA - REE!


steve (n) said...

good going, its not very often "somebody" comes to georgia, im really glad you had such an oppurtunity.

Doc said...

This is so well written, I feel I was there. Fun to see your photos at the Athens Banner-Herald site, too. Other posts so good, hilarious cat sneezing and granny's tea cakes and... well... good stuff.