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Fri Sep 7, 2012, 07:55 PM

Encounter with President Clinton

I once had an encounter with Bill Clinton while he was president.

I remember I liked Bill Clinton right from the very start. He talked about uniting the country while Republicans were busy dividing it. And that was important to me. Plus there was just something about his friendly, open way and his hope for the future that appealed to me.

Earlier in the year, my wife and I went to Washington as tourists. We saw the White House and the surrounding grounds, but I was always secretly hoping to meet President Clinton. It never happened.

All that year Clinton was subject to really hateful and vindictive attacks, which made my support for him grow all the stronger.

One day I heard he was coming to Providence.

I remember that morning, as I went off to work, I told my wife, I might pay a visit to the airport in nearby Warwick where he was expected to land. But I wasn't sure. The main thing that concerned me was the crowds. I just didn't feel like standing in a big crowd to see a tiny figure, in the distance, and then spend an hour and a half fighting traffic to get home.

At that time, I worked at WPRO radio, which is located on the Wampanoag Trail in East Providence.
The ride home involves heading west on Route 195. At a certain point 195 comes to an end, and you must decide to go either right on Route 95 North or left on 95 South. North would take me home; south to the airport. I remember driving home that night and coming to the intersection. I was just about to turn right and go north, but something told me to take a left and go south.
I went south and got off at Greene State Airport in Warwick.

Immediately, I ran into a massive congestion of cars. Cars everywhere. Crawling like snails. I drove slowly, with the airport on one side and a Hooters restaurant on the other. The restaurant had a big sign "Mr. President. Hooters welcomes you!"

Miraculously, I found a place to park about a half-mile away. I parked and ran to the entrance. There was a long line of people in front of me being searched. I waited and eventually got through and joined the crowd. The expression "packed like sardines” certainly applied.

Suddenly, I heard a roar from the crowd, and I looked up and there was Bill standing on the steps of Air Force One. Actually, he is a very good-looking man, even better than on TV, and when I saw him, I said to myself, "No wonder all the women are chasing him!"

He soon disappeared and a short while later there was another roar from the crowd! People were putting up their hands to touch his as he walked along the line! I put up mine and, sure enough, we touched! I ran further down the line, put up my hand again and again touched his! It was incredible to touch the hand of the man I so admired. The President of the United States! Not once, but twice!

He worked his way down the crowd, eventually going to a limousine parked on the runway. (I found out later he was calling his wife who was in South Africa at the time.)

In a little while the crowd thinned out, and most of the people left. But not me. I noticed there were two velvet ropes extending from a point near his limousine down the ramp into the airport terminal. I figured if he was going to leave the limousine and walk to the terminal, this would be his route.

So I waited and sure enough. He got out of the limousine and started to walk into the airport terminal.

The remaining crowd came alive again, and I was right on the rope line where I could easily speak to him as he walked by. He started walking my way. About ten feet from me, when he stopped for what looked like a woman and her daughter. The woman took out a camera, and her daughter stood beside the President as a woman snapped a picture. He was only a few feet from me at the time so I was hoping to speak with him but at the very last second, as he continued toward the terminal, he turned and looked at the people on the other side of the rope, and he passed me by.

I was determined. I shouted out, "Mr. President. Can you speak with the Vietnam Era veteran?”
He turned around and walked back toward me. Considering all the crap he had been getting from veterans, especially those from the Vietnam era, I thought it was an amazing display of courage. I could have said or done something really nasty and that would have been all over the news.

Now the path that leads from the runway into the terminal slopes down, while the area I was standing on did not. Which meant he was really standing about 6 inches below me as he stood directly in front of me. Even so, he stood taller. He faced me directly, and I started to speak.

I had on my sunglasses at the time and there were two burly men on each side of him. One of them interrupted me and said, "Take off your sunglasses!"

I took them off, and I put them in my pocket. It was a warm day and there was dry air blowing from in back of him directly into my eyes. It helped hide my emotions.

I took his hand and his arm. At first, I did not know what to say so I said what was in my heart, “Mr. President, I am a Vietnam Era veteran, and I just want you to know we love you!"

As I said this, he put his arm around me and started to hug me!

The whole episode seemed unreal. As he hugged, I could feel a very heavy vest that he was wearing, and I said to myself, “Whatever you do, keep your hands visible and don't reach into your pocket for a pen! It will be the last thing you ever do!”

The hug actually lasted for a few seconds after which he gave me a pat, the signal to break, and I did.

I was a total state of shock and could hardly believe what happened. When I came out of it, there he was standing facing a TV camera, and there I was standing beside him. . . with my arm still around him!

After a few seconds, it ended, and he left. As he was walking away I shouted, "Good luck Mr. President and God bless you!"

I drove home that night hardly believing what had happened. I came in the door and there was my wife. She smiled and she asked, "Well, did you get to see the president?"

I said to her, "Sit down, honey! Do I have a story for you!”

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Arrow 30 replies Author Time Post
Reply Encounter with President Clinton (Original post)
Vietnameravet Sep 2012 OP
RBInMaine Sep 2012 #1
redwitch Sep 2012 #2
northoftheborder Sep 2012 #3
FirstLight Sep 2012 #4
mountain grammy Sep 2012 #18
1gobluedem Sep 2012 #5
gateley Sep 2012 #14
Cal33 Sep 2012 #29
freshwest Sep 2012 #6
dorkzilla Sep 2012 #7
1gobluedem Sep 2012 #8
gateley Sep 2012 #11
dorkzilla Sep 2012 #12
Lisa0825 Sep 2012 #13
Lugnut Sep 2012 #15
Vietnameravet Sep 2012 #16
mountain grammy Sep 2012 #20
KT2000 Sep 2012 #9
gateley Sep 2012 #10
JoyBugaloo Sep 2012 #17
mountain grammy Sep 2012 #19
colorado_ufo Sep 2012 #21
ffr Sep 2012 #22
CoffeeCat Sep 2012 #23
LovingA2andMI Sep 2012 #24
DavidL Sep 2012 #25
Doodles Sep 2012 #26
Swagman Sep 2012 #27
Beacool Sep 2012 #28
sinkingfeeling Sep 2012 #30

Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 08:00 PM

1. I shook his hand in Maine in 2010 when he was campaigning for the Dem gov. candidate. COOL !

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 08:04 PM

2. What a great story!

Lucky you!

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 08:06 PM

3. He is VERY charismatic in person!

I had the opportunity to shake his hand at a fund-raiser (before elected the first time) and he looked straight into my eyes with his baby blues! I could tell from that tiny encounter that he was very personable. Not as good a story as the above! But I'll never forget that encounter, the only president or pres. candidate I've ever met in person.



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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 08:27 PM

4. I bet he was a nightmare for SS because he loved to touch and connect with people....

He just DIVES right IN!! He truly loves 'his people'

I met him in 98 at the Environmental Summitt at Lake Tahoe, when the US govt gave back land on the shore of Tahoe to the Washoe Tribe...

I'd been working at the local newspaper as an ed asst....and got a call from my counselor at the community college, ABC News was looking for Runners for the DC Press Pool at the event... I got creds and went to tape down cords and make sure everyone had water in the Press Room... What was amazing was watching the difference from what was being said on the live feed and what was being spoonfed to the public. I also realized about 3/4 of the way through that I had the same credentials as everyone else, so I went to the main even room and stepped in to listen & see. The electricity in the room was awesome. Mind you, this was before the rift between Bill and Al and they really had great chemistry....but the charisma from Bill was palpable.

when the meeting broke, several people at the front of the room waited at the bottom of the stage to see him and Al and shake hands, and I heard the SS saying he was going to exit by the side door. For a moment I thought I'd be smart and wait, but I realized once they had him moving, I'd be SOL.
I went ahead and moved toward the front of the room, and stepped on a chair to lean over the crowd and stick my arm over a shoulder....

When he came near, I said, "In 92' I watched you at the DNC as a mom-to-be on welfare," and as I showed him my press creds..."and now I am here."

as I spoke, he shifted his shaking of my hand to holding my hand in both of his... he looked me in the eye and said "I'm proud of you."

after saying thanks and letting go, i ran outside and wrote it ALL down in my notebook, crying and laughing, and the story ended up earning me my first Journo Award for a Column.

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Response to FirstLight (Reply #4)

Sat Sep 8, 2012, 10:23 AM

18. When someone says "I'm proud of you," that's a great compliment

When the President says it to you, especially Clinton, that's a tick off your bucket list! I'm proud of you too!

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 10:18 PM

5. What a great story

President Clinton is magnetic. The energy that radiates from him is almost otherworldly and there are very few people in the world like him.

During his first term he spoke at the university where I work. Naturally, we had to be in the field house a couple of hours early because of security. There wasn't much going on while we waited, I think the marching band played a few songs but that was all.

Just as I checked my watch to see how long we'd been there an electric current just flashed through me. A huge buzz of conversation began and we could feel the energy in the arena skyrocket. There was no change on the podium, no new music, nothing yet, just this unbelievable surge of energy. I learned later that President Clinton had just entered the building as I looked at my watch and felt that current. I'll never forget it.

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Response to 1gobluedem (Reply #5)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 11:32 PM

14. My friend's sister in law owns a wildly popular restaurant in Sydney.

When Clinton was in Australia, he went there. My friend told me about how her S-I-L was trying to explain how the air felt different, likes an electrical current pulsing through the place. She said being in his presence (got her pic taken with him) affected one physically.

I was at a no-hitter Mariners game and my friend and I were yapping away and we started sensing something was changing. We were looking around going 'what's happening?' then we figured it out. My point is that we FELT it. It was almost surreal.

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Response to 1gobluedem (Reply #5)

Sun Sep 9, 2012, 01:25 PM

29. I imagine the rise in energy that you felt had more to do with the sudden and collective

emotional change in the large numbers of people who realized Clinton was finally
there than the energy coming from one man alone. Don't you think?

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 10:22 PM

6. What an excellent story. It brought tears to my eyes. There is something about certain people.

That when I walk to meet them, get their attention to ask a question, it's as if one is lifted up, spine straight, natural, and all focus is shared. It's hard to describe but I believe it's probably the origin of the practice of standing when a leader enters a room to show respect. Something draws one and it's not forced. It's just right.

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 10:29 PM

7. Ooh, Ooh! My opportunity to stop lurking and add something!

This is my first post

I met Bill Clinton back in 1999, not long after he and Hillary moved to Chappaqua, NY. I took my big chocolate lab/Great Dane mix for a walk at the nearby Rockefeller Park Preserve (the most beautiful park in the world) on fine fall day. As I walked Pilot out of the parking lot toward the main entrance, I happened to notice a bunch of big black SUV's parked on top of the giant NO PARKING signs on the blacktop. As I proceeded into the park, I noticed, almost in the same moment, a bunch of very serious looking people walking toward me in suits(being a Sunday, I started thinking the vignette before me was a bit odd), while a very tall man with a baseball cap and jogging shorts walked directly in front of me. Now, you can imagine what a chocolate lab/great dane mix looks like--Pilot was the most gorgeous (and sweet) dog you could ever wish to see...as the man was walking toward me, I read his lips...he was saying "what a beautiful dog", over and over.

It was only when he was RIGHT ON TOP OF ME and I looked into his eyes that I realized "Holy CRAP! It's BILL CLINTON"! Fully expecting the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES to walk right on by, to my surprise he stopped and said "That is one beautiful dog! What kind of dog is he? He looks like my dog Buddy but he's too tall to be a Lab!" I said "he's a purebred mutt" and he laughed. He asked my dogs name and asked where I got the name. When I told him the name was taken from a Bronte novel, he said "interesting" and I added that it was the 19th century equivalent of Fido. We talked for about 5 minutes; he asked about the park, told me he'd just started running there and thought it was beautiful, things of that nature. He was just a normal guy, new to the area, stopping to talk to a woman with a dog. No pretense, easy-going and nice as heck. Coincidentally, my boss at the time was the former head of the Clinton Defense Fund. I said nothing about our "connection" and enjoyed speaking with this--excuse me for gushing--very sexy, charismatic man in a beautiful setting.

That's it!! My brush with REAL greatness!

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Response to dorkzilla (Reply #7)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 10:32 PM

8. Very cool

Lucky, lucky you!

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Response to dorkzilla (Reply #7)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 11:19 PM

11. I love hearing stories like this!

Thank you for breaking your silence to share it with us.

And welcome to DU, dorkzilla!

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Response to gateley (Reply #11)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 11:26 PM

12. Thanks! You guys are my heroes and have been for a while!

I'm sincerely happy to be amongst you all!

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Response to dorkzilla (Reply #12)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 11:29 PM

13. Welcome to DU! Great story!! :-) nt

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Response to dorkzilla (Reply #7)

Sat Sep 8, 2012, 01:16 AM

15. What a great encounter!

Welcome to DU, dorkzilla.


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Response to dorkzilla (Reply #7)

Sat Sep 8, 2012, 09:02 AM

16. Great

Great story!!
thanks for telling us and PD Labs are my second favorite dog.,.I like OPDs the best...Other Peoples Dogs!!

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Response to dorkzilla (Reply #7)

Sat Sep 8, 2012, 10:37 AM

20. Thanks for posting

Great story about a real true blue American!

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 10:45 PM

9. What a good story!

Love it!

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 11:16 PM

10. What a great story!

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Sat Sep 8, 2012, 09:21 AM

17. Wonderful story!!!

Thank you for sharing!!

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Sat Sep 8, 2012, 10:30 AM

19. Great story, thanks..

I missed a chance to see JFK when I was 15. He was gone the week before my 16th birthday. I've never missed an opportunity since to see a great leader in person. I may not get up close and personal like you did, but I'm there, and some day.....

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Sat Sep 8, 2012, 12:58 PM

21. Loved your story - it made my day!

Thank you so much for sharing it.

And thank you so much for your service.

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Sat Sep 8, 2012, 02:52 PM

22. Best President Ever!

I'm jealous.

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Sat Sep 8, 2012, 02:54 PM

23. I had a brief encounter...

...with President Clinton too. Long story short, I pushed my way from the very back of a crowd to the front by waving my reporter's notebook and pen. I'll never understand why but the crowd just kept parting and allowed me to end up in the front row of a large group that was waiting to see him at the Des Moines airport.

I met him, shook his hand and told him that he was doing a great job. I handed him a recent column that I had written titled, "Rush Limbaugh: A Democrat's Best Friend."

He looked at the article, scanned the headline, handed it to one of the Secret Service guys and said to me with a big grin, "Boy I sure can't wait to read that!"

I had attached a note to the column that expressed my concern about hateful right-wing radio. I also included my address.

I was shocked a month later when I received an envelope from the White House. Inside was a letter from President Clinton on WH stationery. He told me that he loved the column and to keep up the good work.

He even signed it. This was in 1995. I was a college student studying journalism and the experience made quite an impression on me.

Thanks for sharing your experience. You have a wonderful memory for yourself. These moments really are special, aren't they???

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Sat Sep 8, 2012, 04:43 PM

24. WOW COOL!

Personally I would have turned into mash potatoes if he hugged me, but great story.

When he (President Clinton) came to Southfield, Michigan in 2010 to support then Virg Bernero campaign for Governor, I made a HUGE SIGN that stated "Michigan LOVES President Clinton". Lucky for me, I was able to get on the floor about four people away from the line where the Secret Service Stand to protect the President.

He saw my sign (the largest one on the floor....cause I'm just a Bill Clinton Fan like that) near the beginning of his speech, pointed directly at it and said "I Love Michigan back" and I'll tell you....I almost lost it! I shouted "Thank You Mr. President" and he continued with his speech!

THAT MOMENT WAS AWESOME!!

Also, I have a SIGNED LETTER from President Clinton, on White House Stationary --when he was President-- where I wrote asking if he would do a speech at my Daughter's then Middle School. President Clinton states in the letter, he had other arrangements but he appreciated me asking him to come.

This LETTER is FRAMED in my House to this day. I LOVE President Clinton dearly as he is and will always be my favorite President.

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Sat Sep 8, 2012, 05:40 PM

25. Wonderful post, well written, thank you for

 

the post and for your service!

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Sat Sep 8, 2012, 07:50 PM

26. Clinton/Obama Encounters

This actually makes me nervous to post! I think I had 2 posts on here years ago and decided to just be an avid reader. Since 2004 DU has helped me remain sane. Today seems to be stories of great encounters so I guess I'll reveal mine. Anything to keep us all fired up and ready to go.
Back in 92 a friend and I followed Clinton's bus tour up through NE Iowa. Somehow at 2 or 3 stops I had managed to shake hands withTipper, Al Gore, and Hillary but Bill remained elusive. I had even called my husband to jump in the car, bring our youngest the 40-50 miles because it was so much fun. She was about 5 years old. From across a parking lot in Strawberry Point, Iowa, I saw Clinton get off the bus to pat my daughter on the head and shake hands with my husband. Once again I was in the wrong spot. On to the next and final stop later into the night. When he finished his stump speech, I managed to run across to a snow fence keeping people back as he made his way to the bus. Just in time I stuck out my hand and had truly an amazing handshake. To this day, I swear to God, electricity went up my right arm.
Fast forward a couple decades and now that daughter is 24. We happened to be in Boulder CO for a friend's wedding with our whole family and a few friends staying at the Golden Buff Motel . Last Sunday we suddenly realize the place is crawling with Secret Service and find out Obama was coming to the restaurant there--The Buff. I mobilize the whole group and we get in line, go through security, several position changes by secret service, and the whole bit for 90 minutes in the hot sun. We see himObama go inside and watch through the window as he shakes hands, chats etc. Finally, he emerges, and we are right at the rope line. Eight of our group gets to shake his hand with brief good lucks and nice-to-meet yous. One son-in-law says Go Packers! The President says, Those words will not leave these lips. Lots of laughter and then he says, You find Cheeseheads everywhere you go. (My SIL actually posted his "Packer/Obama" video on YouTube.) He moves down our line and shakes hands with me, my daughters and my little granddaughter. She just looks shy when he reaches out and he says Hi cutie! It was just amazing.
It was all so exciting I couldn't sleep that night. What a genuine engaging man. You can tell he truly appreciates his people.

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Sat Sep 8, 2012, 11:17 PM

27. My experience with Bill Clinton in Australia

when he visited Sydney as President.

Thousands gathered at Mrs MacQuarie's Chair overlooking the harbour on a sunny day to hear his speech.

When Hilary Clinton gave a speech to women at the Sydney Opera House tickets went like hotcakes..packed to the rafters.

By contrast when George Bush Jnr came to town it was more like thousands of police and SS. No crowds..no fans..

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Sun Sep 9, 2012, 01:06 AM

28. Lovely story.

Ditto for the other ones shared by several posters. Both Clintons are pretty accessible, as anyone who lives in Chappaqua can attest. Bill is always walking his dog about town. If he also takes Hillary's dog, he carries her. The Clintons like to frequent local shops and it's quite common to see them shopping on a Saturday morning or eating out, often with Chelsea and her husband.

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Response to Vietnameravet (Original post)

Mon Sep 10, 2012, 09:44 AM

30. I got to meet him and Hillary once when they came 'home' to Fayetteville.

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