Friday, May 25, 2012

I was finally star struck.

Flying with a school group from Detroit to D.C. for the 1993 Inaugural Festival, we were waiting to board when my dad realized something amazing was happening.  He says, “Emily, do you see who is next to us?” 

I looked over his shoulder and replied, “An old, black man is talking to our choir director.” 

He says, “Look again.” 

I looked again and corrected myself, “An old, blind, black man is visiting with our choir director.” 

After being redirected one more time, it finally hit home that Ray Charles was sitting next to my dad, waiting for the same flight.  As everyone around us went a little nuts and started interrupting Mr. Charles to get pictures, I thought, “Eh, leave the man alone, he just wants to catch his flight.”  I noticed that he had a Braille book in front of him, and even as he looked up and smiled for pictures, he continued reading.  I just refused to give in to the temptation to disrupt his peace and soak up his celebrity.

I had a similar reaction when my roommate, an active college Democrat, was short on volunteers for a presidential visit and begged me to drive for the motorcade.  I turned her down because I had too much homework, and she convinced me that you spend most of the day waiting in the car; I could get a lot done.  I ended up having quite a madcap adventure that day, including getting firm with police and secret service who weren’t convinced that the dirty, blue Olds they had assigned me, really belonged in the motorcade.  It all ended with a brief moment of being face-to-face with Bill Clinton, while we waited for the photographer to set the flash.  I was, again, so nonchalant about meeting the president that I’m not sure I really grasped the moment, even as I grasped the hand of the leader of the free world.  I passed my souvenir photo on to my mom on my next visit and haven’t seen it since.  Last night I lived to regret it.

Despite a very busy week, we decided to take all three kids to see President Obama out at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.  We knew from past political rallies that POTUS is never on time, so we ignored the advice of the organizers who suggested getting there at 3:30pm, and instead didn’t head out until 6, stopping on the way to drive through A&W and eating our spoils in the parking lot before going in.  We cruised right through security with the small band of latecomers and realized as we were ushered into an amphitheater with only a hundred or so other people that we had blown it – we were in the overflow and would only get to hear a piped-in version of the presidents’ speech.  One of the volunteers explained that, if we were very lucky, the president would stop by after his speech and say a word or two before heading out; we should get comfortable for the potential wait.

Imagine our surprise when maybe 3 minutes later, before the official appearance next door, the crowd went nuts and the president walked out on stage right in front of us.  The crowd was so small that we were only a few feet away as he made a few remarks about the brilliance and work ethic of Iowa’s citizens, then he came down off the stage and worked the line, passing just an arm’s length in front of us!  Throughout the evening, our oldest daughter had exactly the nonchalance I used to.  She didn’t see why we needed to walk so far, to stand around in the heat, to give up our evening, just to see some guy in a suit.  Why all the fuss?  He’s just a person like the rest of us.

But after she saw the excitement, heard the nice things the president said about the people of her state, actually looked the nation’s leader in the eyes, her attitude shifted.  Walking back to the car, she expressed her gratitude that we had dragged her out there, and we all marveled at our good luck.  We didn’t have to crowd in with 15,000 other people and look down with binoculars to see a pin prick image of Obama; we were just about close enough to touch him.  On the way out, my husband and I started to say, “That’s probably the closest you will ever get in your life to the President of the United States!”

And my middle girl chirped, “Unless we are her!”

 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” John 7:12


  1. Gotta love her! I'll sing "Hail to the Chief" to your little optimist anytime!

    1. p.s. The girls would love to see the Clinton picture!

  2. I'm going with "he's a good man" and Gwyn would be an even better woman.