Journal entry: December 6, 1994 (age 25) – President Clinton
My friend, Amy Klockowski, is what I call a “womensch.” She works at the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a centrist political organization that hit the mainstream two years ago when their former chairman, Bill Clinton, was elected President of the United States. A few weeks ago, however, both President Clinton and his supporters from the DLC suffered an epic shellacking at the polls courtesy of Newt Gingrich and his Republican colleagues.
Tonight was a gala celebration of the 10th anniversary of the DLC, and Amy was able to get a group of us in as volunteers. In exchange for handing out some programs, we were hanging with some heavy hitters. We didn’t rub their elbows, but I think we made it clear to them that we wanted to. Among the bigshots in attendance were Senators Joe Lieberman, John Breaux, and Chuck Robb. But we were there to see the real rock star, the Potus with the mostest.
As other speakers made their warm-up remarks, I was determined to get as close to the stage as possible. Only one of my friends was willing to throw some unrubbed elbows to get through the crowd, and then stand waiting for over an hour. His eagerness struck me as odd, because he’s a conservative Republican of the staunchest sort. His name is Greg [REDACTED]. We ended up just 15 feet from the podium, and we heard a rumor that the President might come down to shake some hands after his speech. I began to freak out. I’d always been a presidential history buff, and there I was, about to shake hands with a sitting President – who was standing at the same time! My mind began to race. “What will I say? This is history! I have to say something important. Something memorable.” When I asked Greg, “What are you going to say?,” he just smirked.
First Lady Hillary Clinton introduced the President, and he looked extra-larger than life up on the dais. He gave a forceful, stirring speech that showed he was charging ahead with his agenda despite his party’s recent losses. Then came the big moment. President Clinton, flanked by Secret Service officers, was making his way across the front of the crowd, gripping and grinning. I fumbled with my camera, and managed to snap a photo of him while he chatted just 2 feet away. The whirring of my film rewinding told me it was the last picture on the roll – I could only hope I’d gotten it! But my heart was pounding more because I knew I hadn’t come up with anything compelling to say.
The President shook my hand. I blurted out, “God bless you, Mr. President!” My lameness had just begun to sink in when Greg got his turn and said, “Thanks for coming, Bill.” As the entourage moved on, I sputtered at Greg, “Wh-wha-what?! That was the Presi… of the…” My voice trailed off in disbelief.
The tables will be turned in a couple of months. Another well-connected friend scored us all volunteer slots at a Republican National Committee event. But I’ll be more respectful if I get a chance to meet someone like Senator Minority Leader Bob Dole. Their side has good ideas, too. A few years ago, a conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, came up with a very reasonable idea for health care insurance reform called the “individual mandate.” Sounds interesting.