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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Awesome does not even begin to describe.

Sunday, December 11, 2005 will go down in my personal history as one of the best days of my life.

I met the REAL President of the United States.

Well, the man who should be President, the man who would have been President if we had all worked just a little harder and been a little smarter and had our act together a little more. Or if average, busy, hard-working and otherwise wonderful Americans were just a little bit better at recognizing and rejecting media manipulation.

I met Senator John Kerry.

I got the hug, the gentle squeeze of the hand, the eye twinkle. But more importantly to this infogeek, I had the immense honor of sitting practically toe to toe with one of the smartest and most genuinely decent human beings on the planet while he casually and candidly chatted with our group about matters of both import and trivia, matters of media and reality, matters of values and heart. I won't go into detail of what was said, but suffice to say that John Kerry proved to me in person that he really does know what the heck is going on and what needs to be done about it. He groks the blogosphere and the role of new media even though he is necessarily distant from the gory details. In his approach to every turn of the discussion, it was evident that he is a public servant to the core, looking for the best way to get the right thing done, and to do it in the right way. The tidbit from our discussion that I would most like to tell, I cannot, because telling it would defeat the reason that it would even need to be told; because the right way in this case is the quiet way. Let me just say that it exemplified to me that the Senator lives by values that many today just give lip service to, even when it might be more personally advantageous to do the common and expected thing.

For those just dying for the technical details of how this great event occurred, here goes. But first – what I am about to tell is only part of the story, the self-centered, “my meeting with the great Senator Kerry” part of the story. There is so much more I should tell, about how great Mrs. Heinz was to make this happen, how each and every blogger in the group did something that made this trip totally awesome for me and everyone else, how some of the Senator’s and Mrs. Heinz’ staffers played their roles and helped to make it happen and make it wonderful; about our walks to Beacon Hill and our trip to Faneuil Hall…and the great chats together at the hotel, and the endless high fives after the event. So much to tell, I can only take it a bit at a time, and since it started out being all about the Senator’s birthday party, this is where I’ll start.

A few weeks ago our friend Rox posted at DU about a party being held to celebrate the great Senator's 62nd birthday. Well a few of us out-of-towners were lucky enough to have both the inclination and the means to participate (many, many more had the inclination, but sadly, for one reason or another, not the means); and an event for the ages was conceived. We had fourteen ultimately attending, six local or semi-local, and eight flying in. Even better: previously, in response to a separate, wonderfully incredible idea, we had been mailing two birthday cards around the country collecting signatures (one for the East and one for the West). The cards had been custom designed and printed by one of the DU bloggers. Now we saw that we could present the signed cards in person.

At some point Teresa Heinz got wind of our group's plans. Evidently she was impressed, and touched that so many of us would take the time and expense to come from out of town for this event, as well as by our continuing efforts since last year to support and defend her husband in the blogosphere. She wanted to recognize us and "present" us to the Senator, I guess to demonstrate how much love and support he still inspires across the country, and perhaps to let him see, if he was unaware, that he already has a cadre of bloggers fighting the good fight against the media manipulation problem that bedevils all Democrats, and especially great Democrats, in our society today. Teresa had her staff communicate with one of our members and make all the necessary arrangements to create of our group a nice "surprise" for the Senator at his party.

So on the great day we all assembled at the appointed place, the Georgian Room of the Boston Park Plaza. We were positioned in a particular spot where Teresa could acknowledge us individually by name in her introductory remarks. I'm unfortunately too short to have been able to fully see the Senator's expression, but it seemed that he was duly impressed and thrilled about his "present". When he got up to give his own speech, he called us all up on stage to stand behind him as he spoke. We weren't expecting that and were perhaps a little stage tense, but I was ultimately ecstatic – I ended up standing about three feet from my favorite living politician while he gave an absolutely phenomenal speech. In his speech, Senator Kerry spoke briefly to issue after issue of importance to me, and convinced me yet again how much we are on the same page on the issues that count.

Later (still at the main event) we each had an opportunity to be photographed with the Senator, and we presented him the birthday cards. I told him that I found his continuing efforts since the election very inspirational. Okay, I have no idea what my exact words were because I was totally awestruck at that point, and it was difficult enough to get to him through the mob (I am NOT a skilled cocktail party honoree interceptor). The good Senator seemed to understand and appreciate my message, though, and responded with words to the effect that "it's so important to keep fighting", while delivering one incredible hug.

Eventually the scheduled event cleared out and we all headed off to bask in the glow. But at some point on the way to our planned mundane basking, we got the message that we were invited to a local pub to enjoy a few suds on the tab of the REAL First Lady. Wow. I'm a rare drinker these days but I wasn't about to pass up a Guinness at an Irish pub in Boston, after an event like this.

After some of the folks changed – I couldn't because I didn't splurge for the room at the Plaza, and hadn't brought any after party duds over from my hotel – we all met up for the after-event get together. Of course there was a wonderful young fellow from the Senator's staff there, to make sure we were all well taken care of. He treated us to some innocuous talk of the Senator, relevant events past and present, ourselves and to some extent our own ambitions (such as how the college students in our group should go about applying for internships).

In the midst of this banter and fellowship, our staffer friend received a call on his Blackberry. I had achieved a rare (for me) networking coup by managing to sit next to the staffer, so I knew immediately the call was from the Senator, and I succeeded in rapping my end of the table (the noisy end) to relative quiet. The staffer then held up the phone and told us to say "hi" to the Senator…which we did, quite loudly and impressively. Or maybe it was "Happy Birthday, Senator Kerry"…subsequent events kind of overwrote the details of that one in my memory.

More banter and fellowship, and one or two Blackberry calls later. After one of those that I suspected to be from the Senator, either I or Diane asked, "so…is he coming over?" (at some point that had been emphatically requested by several of those assembled). But someone else jumped in with an innocuous question, that the staffer promptly pounced on, smoothly avoiding the first question. Of course I refused to take the hint (yes I did recognize it) and needled him, "you sure avoided that one nicely" to which he responded with a smile, something like, "yes, I did, didn't I?" At that point my hopes were starting to rise, but not too high…

My roommate was suggesting it was time to head back to the hotel, but I was having the time of my life and basically said, hell no. In fact I was thinking that there was a slim possibility that someone very special might join us, so there was no way I was leaving. But I didn't want to look stupid if I was mistaken, so I just said something like, hey, we just had a phenomenal experience, and also, this is my first time ever to celebrate in downtown Boston, we may feel dead tomorrow but who cares? My point was taken, for which she was very grateful later.

So, just a little more banter and fellowship later, and guess who strolls into the pub. After a roughly unisonic chorus of "oh my god HE'S HERE!" gasps and a brief pause to retrieve jaws from the floor, I'm not sure if a cheer went up or what... it was something like that but again, the record's a bit scratched in that spot.…

Fast forward past general welcomes, a few happy photo shots, the inevitable schmoozing by the fearless younger set, and our great Senator found his way to a protected but accessible spot in a chair backed to a wall, and we all gathered around as best we could respectfully. Somehow, and this time through absolutely no planning or machinations of my own, I ended up in the catbird seat – on a short stool directly across from the Senator, and no table between, either – with my feet close enough to his that I even edged mine back slightly lest an involuntary twitch scuff a really nice shoe (and I don't mean my own).

Since I wasn't taking notes, I won't repeat anything of the conversation, lest I misstate or misconstrue something the Senator said. That would truly be improper. The upshot was everything I said at the beginning of this post. Although I knew enough about John Kerry before this weekend to want to attend this event in the first place, I don't have the words to describe the comfort of assurance I have attained by this personal encounter, that the wonderful things I have only believed about him before, now I know to be absolutely true: he is indeed warm, personable, charismatic, and incredibly smart, informed and on top of the situation. He was casual and comfortable with us and I know we all felt like we were chatting with a friend. Now answer this - how many U.S. Senators do you think you could you say that about, after a first meeting?

When it was time for him to leave, he of course wanted to give each of us a hug. Thanks to my lucky seating draw, I was first in line to be on the receiving end of one of the world's greatest hugs. Then as goodbyes were said, I somehow ended up on the other end of the group, toward the door – I didn’t plan this, honest – and that put me in the spot for one last touch of the arm and squeeze of the hand as he left our group. In truth I certainly could not say what he was thinking, but the words I felt in that last squeeze of the hand were “don’t worry – it will be okay.” And you know, I do feel more hope now that somehow, it really will be okay.

To sum up, what an incredible guy, our friend, Senator, and to us the REAL President, John Kerry.

Comments:
You describe it so perfectly I feel as if I was there. Wait a minute, I was there! It wasn't a dream after all! How cool is that?

Wonderful post! You expressed what I have been feeling about this WICKED AWESOME adventure in Boston.

The "who would you want to have a beer with" question has been answered once and for all! JOHN KERRY. Why? Because I did! So there! That is going to feel really good to say, is it not?

::high five:: We had a beer with JOHN KERRY! And he bought.
 
Hi dynamicdems!!!

YEAH!! High Five Baby! We had a beer with John Kerry! And he bought!

Seriously, thanks for your comment. This was such an incredible event....not sure if I will EVER come down from the clouds after this one.

But about that "who would you want to have a beer with?" question - only a numbskull wouldn't have known the answer to THAT question, long before now. I've been thinking how great it would be to have a beer with John Kerry ever since the question became relevant (so to speak, i.e. since he was the frontrunner for the nom); and believe me I never would have expected it to actually happen. Wow. Just wow.
 
MH

Wonderful post! Sounds like quite an adventure!
 
You said it so beautifully!
 
That is great story MH. Thanks for sharing it with us. (smile!)
 
High five!!

Very nicely written, MH. Glad one of my fellow Kerry Kos warriors got to be so close and meet the man. This confirms it for me as well. He is the man we think he is! The naysayers can kiss my grits!
 
Thanks for sharing. That was great. I'm sure there are others who wish they'd been in your shoes.
 
Thrilled you all had such a fantastic experience. A memory for the ages.

KJ
 
Thanks so much MH for posting this. It made me feel like I was there! In regards to the "tidbit", I think it's like charity. The real way to give to charity is to get no benefit to yourself whatsoever other than feeling good about what you did. When a corp. or a person brags about giving to charity then it's less about helping people and more just about your ego. Thanks for letting us know! I suspected this about the Senator but wasn't sure. Now I know. (Beachmom)
 
I don't think my first post went through so if shows up sorry folks.
Thanks for posting this. I think Kerry would be a fun person to have dinner and conversate with. The more I learn about him the more i'm convinced he was very much maligned by the gop and the so called media/free press. I wish others in the country could see this side of the senator. I liked him when i saw how much he adores his daughters and they him.
I bet him and teresa were fun to watch. Thanks again for bringing this uplifting story to us.
Pen.
 
MH, glad you're back (again!) and what a great post. I'll make sure and reference it later.
 
Hey, MH. Roomie finally checking in.
You know we are indebted to each other for the rest of our days, my friend.
My most lasting impression of our meeting with the Senator?
He's totally without pretention. Sure, he's smart and funny and good looking and wicked tall, but he's also so normal. Kinda like a guy you would actually want to, well, have a beer with, I guess.
I didn't expect that. I guess I wasn't sure what to expect. Weird, huh? That someone can seem so presidential and at the same time, so genuine? I guess presidents can be people, too. Well, not the one we have now, but maybe the next one.
He's a great listener, too. I got the feeling he really wanted to hear what each of us had to say.
And Teresa is totally cool. I saw a little look and a wink between them at the party, and it was so sweet. And the poll joke...
Anyway, I can't recall the last time I had so much fun. The Senator is quite a guy.
 
GV,

Thanks for posting...I agree totally with your perceptions...including the part about being indebted to each other for life. :-)

I confess I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd heard plenty that he really was a cool person to hang out with, but I guess it was hard to get past the "presidential" demeanor, in my mind, even until he actually came out to the pub and sat and chatted with us.

I'm still in awe, though. I'm shy enough around "everyday" people, so even as nice as he is, I'll find it hard to relax right away if I ever get to talk to him again. The cool thing though was that even *I* was relaxed by the time he left the pub, and felt as if I could have been talking with an old friend. That's pretty good stuff there. "No charisma" my ass. :-)
 
Something that's surprised me in the two weeks since is how close I feel to all of you fellow travelers who came all the way to Boston to be part of this. I expected to like you all; what surprised me is how close I still feel to you all, even after the glow has (somewhat) faded.

I know we say this all the time at DU, but I think it's really true - JK and THK are such excellent and serious people that they attract the support of other excellent and serious people. I'm very proud to call you all my friends.
 
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