Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Dem’s Dream….


I recently lucked out and got to hear former President Bill Clinton speak in Richmond, Virginia as part of the “Richmond Forum” series. The luck came in the form of a friend’s husband. She is politically liberal; he most definitely is not. Since they had purchased season tickets for the Forum this year, she asked if he’d mind missing that particular program, since she knew his reaction to Mr. Clinton would most likely consist of ongoing eye rolls. When she e-mailed to ask if I might be interested, I played it cool, calmly responding, “Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!!”
You see, I’m one of those folks who was born with the “hard core Democrat” gene. In addition to brown eyes, dark brown hair, and an eerily similar paternal birthmark, I inherited from my parents the proclivity to vote exclusively for the Democratic candidate, regardless of whom that might be. An unkind term for folks like me is “Yellow Dog Democrat,” which means, of course, that we vote for the candidate with (D) by his or her name on the ballot, even if that candidate happens to be a yellow dog. While I have yet to see a golden retriever on any ballot I’ve marked, I’d happily vote for one over the Republican on any given day, so I certainly take no offense at the moniker. The only time I did not vote for a Democrat in an election–be it for town council, state, or national office–was when I lived in Alabama. The Democratic candidate vying for Attorney General in one of the elections there went by the name “Bubba.” I confess time has erased the last name from my memory, but that’s not important. The point is that this fellow’s Christian name was “Bubba.” It was not a nickname. Try as I might, I simply could not bring myself to pull the lever.
Since that minor deviation in the 80’s, however, I’ve been unswerving in my Democratic zeal, driving by myself and waiting for hours…some of it in the pouring rain…to see Barack Obama and Joe Biden on the campaign trail, canvassing for those two closer to the election, posting signs in my yard, sporting bumper stickers for Democratic candidates of every stripe, passing out flyers in freezing weather in a largely Republican polling place, yadda, yadda, yadda. You get the picture…I will bore anyone who is willing to give me two minutes with political chat lauding the Dems.
So you can imagine how delighted I was when the ticket to this sold out program landed in my lap. My friend…a real peach…wouldn’t even allow me to pay her for the ticket, for goodness’ sake. We headed to a spot about two blocks from the venue, cleverly avoiding the parking garage that would have delayed our exit by at least an hour at program’s end. She knew of a cute little place on the VCU campus where we could grab a bite. As we sipped two of their signature beers and waited for our table, we struck up a conversation with a couple about our age, also waiting for a table prior to attending the program. While they weren’t overtly political (“I think it’s interesting to see these speakers, even if you don’t always agree with all of their politics,” said he), we did not hold that against them, and even shared a table with them when one finally became available. Turns out they have season tickets with seats close to my pal’s, so she and her husband will be seeing a lot more of them at programs in the months and years to come….
After a quick walk to the venue, seats were found, programs perused, and at last the event opened with a mini-documentary on President Clinton, focusing far more on the good works he’s done in the years since leaving office than on his legacy as a politician. The audience rose and applauded heartily as he stepped onto the stage, then settled back to listen to this master speaker. Two things about his talk stood out for me. Though I’d heard that his speech was to be limited to about forty minutes, with another twenty or so for questions, I found that timeframe more than a little unlikely. This is a man who is a dynamic speaker and one who…let’s tell it like it is…likes to hear himself talk! My yellow dog label allows me to honestly admit that I love listening to him regardless of the topic, so if he’d deviated from the alloted time I wouldn’t have been upset. To my surprise, however, his speech was nearly on schedule. We were seated fairly high up, but big screen t.v.s allowed us a good look at the former president. While he looked fit, he definitely seemed to have aged a bit. However, his voice was strong and he never wavered as he warmed to his subject that night, which was the second unexpected aspect of his appearance.
Rather than launching into a detailed analysis of politics past or present, he instead focused on the challenges that confront the global community in working together to make life more sustainable. He highlighted several programs his nonprofit foundation has launched, partnering with others to bring about real change both here and abroad in such areas as health care and empowering citizens economically. Only during the question and answer period (with questions having been pre-selected), did Mr. Clinton address political issues, touting compromise in Washington (good luck with that!) and, much to the chagrin of many audience members, eschewing term limits for members of Congress. I’d sort of hoped he might address his spouse’s possible run for the presidency, but…probably to no one’s surprise…no questions on that burning issue were chosen.
The evening was, in short, fabulous! The visit and speech may not have made history nationally or even locally, but it certainly did personally. While seeing this dynamic former president wasn’t on my “bucket list,” it’s only because I hadn’t taken the time to add it. I’m not sure I touched the sidewalk as we headed to the car that night. And I have to admit it: The smile on this yellow dog Democrat’s face has yet to fade….