One Saturday morning in July, I was making breakfast, watching the small TV in the corner of the kitchen. My toast was ready, the eggs were almost done and I was watching the news, something I rarely do anymore. They began interviewing people that were waiting in line at Florida International University to see Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton and Senator Tim Kaine at a campaign rally. They mentioned in the story that you could still get a ticket to see her and I began thinking if I should go or not. The university was maybe a 20 minute drive away at best and perhaps I would make it in time if I left right away. She wasn’t going to speak for another couple of hours at least. I thought maybe I would attempt to get a ticket online and see what happened. For sure it would be fully booked and I would have an excuse not to go and that would settle my indecision. Well it wasn’t and I printed out my ticket rather quickly and easily. I don’t know why I was so stressed about going. I wanted to be a part of history and I wanted to meet the woman I’d be voting for…once again.
The first time I met Hillary Clinton she was the First Lady of the United States. I was a volunteer for the Summit of The Americas when it was held in Miami in 1994. I waited in front of the podium with my co-worker for over two hours just to get a perfect spot where I was guaranteed to shake hands with the President. The waiting paid off. That night I shook hands with President Clinton, Al Gore (I had such a crush on the man), Tipper Gore (who said hello back and asked me how I doing) and of course Hillary Clinton. It was an amazing experience and I was star struck for the first and only time in my life.
You were informed ahead of time by Secret Service to hold your hand out and wait for it to be shaken, not to grab anyone’s hand. President Clinton was not only crazy about shaking everyone’s hand, but also the hands of the people standing rows behind me. I found myself in presidential armpits as he reached over to grab the eager hands behind me. The First Lady did no such thing. With a stern look on her face, she stood poised and confident, reaching out calmly and from a distance, almost like you’d expect from royalty. A gentle shake, a slight nod of approval, and she moved on silently amidst screams and cheers to the next person.
So here was my opportunity once again to experience an event I would never forget. I finally made the decision to hop in my car and go. Everything seemed to run so smoothly, traffic was great and I even got past a huge line of cars because of the direction I was coming from. I was so stoked and so proud to be a part of history. Standing in line was a breeze and I couldn’t wait to get my Hillary Clinton sticker to wear with pride. I would actually be going to a campaign rally!
I got very emotional several times while waiting for Hillary to come on stage. There were many speakers ahead of her, all trying their best to motivate the crowd, to make us cheer and chant, bring out our patriotism and even vent anger. My sense of pride to be an American was at an all time high. I thought of my Uncle Joey that died in World War II, I thought of all of the people that have died in wars just so this afternoon’s event could happen. It was so moving and I was totally captivated in the moment.
After some time I began to feel tired and a bit drained from all the screaming and false starts. I remembered how late the Clintons were the last time I saw them and I heard this was pretty much the norm. More speeches by more people, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who only days later would have to resign her position as chair of the DNC for her emails regarding Bernie Sanders. So I was witnessing history already and didn’t even know it! 🙂
Finally the moment was here. The restless crowd started screaming but there was no site of her. I wasn’t super close to the stage, but I had a great seat just the same. Everyone was standing up, looking for her and then you started to notice heads turning and looking off stage. And suddenly there she was, most likely the next President of United States and we were all united, “Stronger Together” just like the banners all said.
She shook a lot of hands and walked up to the platform. Tim Kaine was there too and he ended up doing most of the talking after her brief introductory speech. He was an amazing speaker and I was taken back by his genuine sincerity and empathy. I started to wonder how it would be to work at the White House with such an amazing boss. Yeah, it was like a West Wing fantasy playing out in my head.
The speech was soon over and it was time to leave. I was a little disappointed I never got a flag or sign to wave. They gave those out to the crowd before Hillary began speaking but I guess they ran out. I did see some aides running around asking for them, saying people were getting upset that they didn’t get any, but they never made it to my area of the auditorium. The cool thing was I always thought people brought those signs from home, like they paid for them in exchange for a contribution or something. I never knew they were given to them for free at the event itself.
Leaving the university campus was a royal pain. They didn’t let anyone exit the parking garage until Clinton’s motorcade had left and was clear from the area. Luckily I was parked on the roof and enjoyed a thunderstorm while waiting. I texted my Republican family and partner Eric tons of photos just to annoy them while my car got pelted by huge drops of rain. Driving home I was so happy I made the decision to go and reflected on the significance of the event. I was part of history, or so I thought, because I just saw the next and first woman President of The United States of America. Unfortunately that would never happen and the significance of the event would be overshadowed by her very loss. I didn’t get to shake her hand again like i did before, but that wasn’t such a big deal. The real thrill came from participating in such a fundamental part of our nations democracy. The privilege that so many paid the ultimate sacrifice for, the privileged to choose our next leader.
I did my Uncle Joey proud.