Friday, February 01, 2008

In the Presence of Greatness

Politics is not something I write about in this blog. But as I watched the Democratic debate last night between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, I was, like many people in awe of the historical significance of the moment. Yes, they hugged at the end, they sparred amicably, and I was not only impressed with their intellect, but with their showmanship. They did seem more like a dream team than competitors. Here we had before us not only a viable black presidential candidate, but a woman candidate.

A number of years ago, when my daughter was a teenager, and Chelsea Clinton was too, I met Hillary at a classic "Southern Tea." Meeting Hillary was unlike meeting any other First Lady of Arkansas since, or before. I definitely had the sense of being in the presence of "Greatness." This was long before her husband announced his own candidacy for President, so I wasn't getting my impression from star-studded glasses.

Then came the Bill Clinton presidency, filled with more drama than a well-padded soap opera. Aside, from my following of Hillary's career, and reading a couple of books about her life, seeing her at other functions, etc. I had this observation about Hillary last night: She is no longer standing in someone else's shadow, and she is radiant. Not beautiful woman, radiant. Just radiant as a human being that is finally in her element.

My only other encounter with Hillary was later, when she was First Lady of the United States. My daughter and I went to hear her speak at a function, and Erin had made a drawing to give to Hillary. It was a detailed pencil sketch of two hands outstretched seeking to clasp. Erin, who is always full of surprises, had somehow decided to draw this symbolic picture for Hillary. It was right after the Monica Lewinsky incident, and Hillary had come home to Arkansas to seek the support of friends. Some of us were scratching our heads, about why she had put up with these shenanigans for decades. Then I remember reading or hearing her say in an interview, "I enjoy being in the company of Bill Clinton." It made her decision to perservere through the debacle more clear. And Erin's drawing, made by an adolescant who knew nothing of the challenges of married life, made perfect sense.

As Hillary departed from the auditorium where we were, Erin, took her sketch and asked a member of the Secret Service to present it to her as a gift. That moment, as well as the drawing are imbedded into my memory as if I had a photograph. Hillary wore a cheerful yellow pantsuit, and did a good job of speaking despite the humiliation caused by the scandal. The sketch was beautiful. We don't know if Hillary ever received the gift, but it was a moment in my teenaged daughter's life that I won't forget.

Now Erin is an adult, and enamored with Obama. He is a good choice, I believe, but I've been waiting for the chance to vote for Hillary, probably ever since I met her those many years ago.--Ruth Mitchell

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