|President Bill Clinton, President of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
I have never gotten the privilege of meeting Bill Clinton, but I came pretty close once. It was 1992 when he he was running for President. Al Gore was his running mate. I was a part time correspondent for a daily newspaper at the time--a Republican leaning one.
I was new to politics then, but was learning quickly. In my off hours, I was also an activist, fighting against the State of Illinois' efforts to build a new airport close to the tiny town where I lived.
When I heard that Bill Clinton and Al Gore were coming to Chicago, I made up my mind that I wanted to go. My friend Michelle, who was also my anti-airport partner joined me. When we got downtown, we had never seen so many people. We walked toward a raised platform surmising that it was the place they would stand. We got closer to see the area was cordoned off. Suddenly, we were stopped by a big, burly Chicago cop. I quickly shoved my camera case at Michelle and said, "here, take this."
The cop asked for credentials. I told him I was with the press. I didn't have special credentials. I had only a press pass issued by Will County, but I showed it to him. If I remember correctly, we had to do a little fast talking too. We were like two giddy school girls about to meet the high school football jock. No one was more surprised than as that he grinned and gave me a nod. He looked at Michelle and asked about her. I said she was with me--she's my camera man. He let us in.
We walked to the front of makeshift stage. where we laughed at the encounter and our own brazenness. It wasn't a lie. I had planned to cover the event, take notes, write a story and submit photos to the paper. We really had every right to be there. We waited a very long time until finally, we saw a bus in the distance. Out stepped Bill and Hillary, Al and Tipper Gore, former Sen. Carol Mosely-Braun, then Mayor Richard M. Daley, as well as singer Michael Bolton who was traveling with them.
The crowd was electric. They each delivered a short speech. We were close enough that we could have touched him.
When it was all over, the crowd began to disperse. There were so many people pushing and shoving; that at times, I no longer stood on my own two feet. I was levitated by the crowd. I am short--only 5'-1" tall. Everyone around me was taller. I almost felt helpless. It really was pretty scary. I vowed I would never put myself in a situation like that again. Yet, I was really glad I did it this time.
When I got back to the paper, I submitted film. I wrote a story, which did not interest them. I really had to talk fast to get them to print a picture with a caption at least. I told them this man was going to be the next President of the United States and they were really lucky that I had his picture for them. They may have just been pulling my leg, because the picture appeared the following day.
I had one more near Bill Clinton experience--in 1996 when he was running for a second term. The venue was outdoors at the Homewood/Floosmoor High School football field. A friend of mine who was working for the local Democrats got tickets and asked if I'd like to go with him to see Clinton. I was thrilled. We watched as the helicopters flew overhead. I recall Clinton talking about building a bridge to the 21st century. He stood before posters and graphics illustrating that bridge. I was star struck; I still am.
When my husband and I came to Arkansas on vacation, it was during the time that Clinton was being impeached. We stayed at a resort, but we didn't have much fun. I refused to leave the television set at the cabin. I was riveted as I watched what I thought was a terrible injustice to my President.
Finally when my husband retired, he was already certain he wanted to live in the Ozarks. We were looking for a place to move. We had really considered moving to Missouri. It seemed as though it was a little cheaper to live there. We looked for houses in both states. One night I told my husband that I didn't want to look in Missouri anymore. I really wanted to live in Arkansas because it was the state that produced Bill Clinton. We moved here in 2005 and never looked back.
Hearing Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention last night was just like déjà vu for me. I felt the same exhilaration that I had felt during his campaigns and while he spoke from the White House. The happiest political moment was the day he was inaugurated. Michelle came to my house and we watched together. Both of us sat in silence, hanging on every word, a box of kleenex between us.
I have always been a fan of Bill Clinton's. There was just something about him. He is quick-witted, smart, and ambitious, not to mention easy on the eyes. He has the ability to hold millions of people in the palm of his hand when he speaks. Yet while he talks plain and has an unassuming demeanor, his mind is sharp as a tack. There is no one like Bill Clinton and there never will be. Who knows, perhaps one day I will even get to meet him? That would be such an honor.