Monday, July 7, 2008

Only in New Hampshire, USA

We’ve met the next president of the United States and have a photo on the wall to prove it.

I love being able to say that. Republicans usually narrow their eyes and look skeptical. The Dems also appear doubtful, especially when I confide their guy once put me in a virtual headlock and even called to chat for five minutes.

Such are the joys of living in New Hampshire: No matter who wins in November, Husband Frank and I can brag we’ve met the next leader of the free world. Maybe his vice president, too.

I am especially appreciative of this as we celebrate the Declaration of Independence. After all, how many ordinary citizens get to meet the king or queen of England?

In America, and especially New Hampshire, we have opportunities to meet the folks running for president. If you’ve heard the joke about the NH voter who was asked if he liked a certain candidate and responded: “I don’t know – I’ve only talked to him three times,” I assure you it’s no joke for some of us.

NH may not have as many residents as Philadelphia, but we do have a law requiring our presidential primary to be first in the nation. That means every candidate wants our vote – and wants it bad.

Although some NH citizens resent hearing their telephone ring non-stop and the deluge of campaign literature, Frank and I are such fans of free entertainment that we have no qualms about taking advantage of the opportunities -- or the free food and drink at the better events. This round, I also wanted my picture taken with every candidate. But with at least 16 presidential wannabes tromping through NH, the quest became a little tiresome and I limited my photo-stalking to the leaders.

I first met Barack Obama in December 2006 when he came to promote “The Audacity of Hope.” During his “reading” (that’s what they called the pre-primary foray into frigid and overwhelmingly white New Hampshire), I watched him nervously moving his foot back and forth behind the podium he was gripping
. A year later, there were no such signs of unease as he, wife Michelle and Oprah Winfrey electrified a crowd of 8,500 at the largest political rally in NH history. In between these events, I saw him at a private gathering and two rallies.

I also unexpectedly encountered him during one of his downtown campaign strolls and confronted him about my inability to make contact for a story Frank and I were writing for the 22 million readers of AARP Bulletin. At one point, he put his arm around my neck and turned me toward the cameras chronicling his every step. It felt like a headlock. But a week later, he telephoned me as promised and we talked for five minutes about caring for older relatives.

Ironically, the sidewalk encounter occurred the same day we met John McCain. Frank was interviewing GOP candidates for the AARP story so we headed to a backyard party where he’d been promised a “walk and talk” between the point that McCain finished addressing the crowd and national media, to when he got into a waiting van.
The task turned complicated when the senator was repeatedly interrupted by admirers. But at least I snapped a photo of the interview.
It’s not easy to write down a candidate’s comments while you’re walking. I had to stop during my walk-and-talk with Hillary one rainy afternoon. Fortunately, she stopped, too, but I can’t forget that she didn’t share her umbrella – until it was time to take the picture.

I’ve posted our presidential photos below. Have you ever seen a president or candidate in person? Which ones would you have liked to have met?

1 comment:

Ira said...

Have met several presidents and VPs, plus hundreds of wannabes in my journalism career, and I have to say that George W. Bush was the most personally affable and decent. I guess this is the outlier where the nut falls very far from the tree.