Today was another unique day. But, first a story. A few years ago I was on a plane with Tex Winter, a former coach for the Lakers (and you know how much I love the Lakers). I wanted to talk with him and thought that once the plane made a stop I would go sit next to him. Well, of course, Tex left and I never had the opportunity to speak with him. As a huge b-ball fan I vowed to never let any kind of opportunity like this slip away from me again.
Last week it was indicated in the local newspaper that President Bush would be visiting Lancaster. Members of the Chamber of Commerce could pick up a ticket by waiting in line at the Chamber offices this past Monday. Tickets would be given out starting at 10 AM. I thought why not, I may not agree with the man but this is an opportunity to really see someone who is in the public light. I made it to the Chamber about 9:30 AM last Monday and there were already a room full of people, some having arrived as early as 5 AM! I was given the number 60 and waited about two hours to be three tickets away from obtaining one to see the President. I saw a young man in his late 20’s who had gotten some tickets interviewed by the local media who had received a couple of tickets. This young man talked about how much he loved the President, supported the war and then he did a little parody of the President. I thought how can someone so young be so conservative? I put my name on the Chamber waiting list and yesterday received a call from the Chamber saying that I could get a ticket! Last night there was a demonstration in the square outside of Market which I wanted to experience. I stayed in the background but saw many signs along with lots of chanting. I agreed with many of the signs but as I left I said to someone, “OK, so now how do we make changes?”
This morning I made it to the site where the President would speak, about 7 miles outside of Lancaster, around 9:45 AM. Driving on the road to the site, one could tell that the President was on the way, lots of police and ambulances, etc. I waited in line for about 45 minutes and made it into the site which was set up in a town hall meeting style, the President would be in the middle with about 400 people sitting in bleachers around him. The national media of course covered the event. We started out with the star spangled banner and then the President of the Chamber was introduced and then the President walked in. Whether you agree with the President or not it was quite an electric feeling to have George Bush about 10 feet away from you.
The President gave about 30 minutes of prepared remarks including addressing some of the Amish whose families were involved in the horrible Nickel Mines shooting and then opened it up to questions. The first question was about the Iraq war. The President was very adamant about needing to stay until we were successful. He really spent a lot of time answering the question. Next it was my turn to ask two questions. I said, “Thank you for coming here and for being open to answer questions. I also told him that I wanted to gain a better understanding of him, which he thanked me for. I asked him to talk about the Farm Bill and how it helped Lancaster County farmers and also asked him to talk about how we were being leaders in combating global warming.” (Apparently I was also on the local news asking my Farm bill question). The President spent a little bit of time on the Farm Bill but went into quite an explanation about global warming. He looked at me quite a bit as he was answering my questions. There were some very tough questions for the President and he answered all of them to the best of his ability. He seemed sincere and personable and is of course a real ideologue. Someone asked him if his daughters should go into business or politics and he said that they should do whatever they want to do. He talked a bit about HIV/AIDS in Africa and said that he felt that we should help to relieve the suffering overseas and that we should help people in other countries to become free. He also stated that he didn’t like the fact that politics in Washington were so personal and that we should show respect for one another. He again did seem sincere. He talked a lot about not raising taxes and I kept thinking about how we were paying for the war besides cutting lots of programs?
As the President left around 1 PM, I handed him my latest US News and World Report with a cover picture of Hillary for him to sign, he asked me where I farmed and I stated that I ran a market with lots of farmers. The President did sign the picture of Hillary and laughed. (During the 72-73 b-ball season the NY Knicks defeated the Lakers in the finals. Keith Erickson of the Lakers was at a local drug store to sign autographs after the defeat. My friend Bernard and I went to obtain an autograph. Bernard, who always had a good sense of humor, and is now living in Paris, brought the cover of Sports Illustrated with Willis Reed of the Knicks for Keith to sign. Keith just laughed and signed it and I thought of this as I handed the picture of Hillary to President Bush).
All in all to be able to ask the President of the US a question and get an answer, regardless of whether I agree or not, is remarkable to me. It is very difficult for me to find much right with the policies of the Bush Administration, he had just come from vetoing a bill for poor children’s health, but I do have to say that I have an appreciation for the person George Bush and the tremendous pressure that he is under as President.
The lesson for me is to take advantage of whatever opportunities life presents. Why not?