Annamaria on Monday
Here is the story behind the picture above, commemorating the day my husband and I had a five minute private chat with Hillary Clinton.
In the summer 2003, when David was a bright light in the direct marketing industry, he was invited to a special conference to be held in Aspen, Colorado for the sector's movers and shakers. Modest and private, David was never one to glory in his own success. But the draw of that event was more than he could resist: the keynote speaker was to be ex-President Bill Clinton. Besides which, we two inveterate travelers had never been to Aspen, and the five days there offered a chance for trout fishing and hikes in the mountains.
President Clinton gave his speech at the banquet on Saturday evening. As it turned out, the event offered more than that. As we entered, we got to have our picture taken with the Prez. Everyone was pretty jazzed to be in a room with Bill.
The crowd attending were business people with their spouses and significant others from all over North America. We held diverse political views. Regardless of political persuasion, we all listened politely to President Bill. His talk focused on what had happened in our country and internationally since 9/11. The direct marketing industry had suffered quite a bit as a result of that tragedy and its aftermath.
When he asked for questions from the audience, I asked a respectfully challenging one about the evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. (We were four months into the war in Iraq, a war David and I had marched against both in New York and in Washington.) In answer, Bill described the Bush administration's rationale and expressed, even at that moment, his doubts about their veracity. Later, in a small group after the dinner, he told me that "they" will say whatever it takes to get their way, whether or not it has any basis in fact. I have thought about that a great deal in the largely unlucky thirteen years since.
Just as Bill Clinton was finishing his speech, Hillary made an unanticipated appearance. Bill greeted her with the same surprise and delight as the rest of us. He explained that she had been on a book tour and had been traveling for some time, and she added that she had been nearby enough to take a break and come for a visit.
Her appearance ramped up the buzz in the room to stratospheric heights. As I said, the people there were not a group of their supporters, yet I have never felt that level of excitement anywhere I have ever been. I cannot imagine any rock stars that could electrify a crowd the way they did just by both being together in the room.
After the dinner, David and I approached Hillary, who was then our US Senator. We told her that we were active members of the Village Independent Democrats and had handed out her campaign literature at the subway stop when she ran for the post she then occupied. She thanked us for our support and then asked a couple of questions about local issues in lower Manhattan, things one wouldn't have expected a Senator with a national perspective to know or care much about. Then she asked how the neighborhood and specifically our family was doing, close as we lived to Ground Zero.
I saw her in person once again a few years later, at a party for a small group of very active fundraisers for breast cancer research. At that gathering in a private NYC apartment, she gave a brief speech on the subject. It had all the hallmarks of her typical approach to problems: full of facts and strategies, serious and optimistic.