Home Education Magazine
November-December 2000 - Articles
Notes From The Road Less Traveled - Linda Dobson
Remember Your Promise
I write books hoping that somehow they will positively impact the education of our nation's children. As I'm sure other writers do, I've also hoped to get the books under certain eyes. This was the only reason I accepted, as a neighboring councilperson, dibs on two tickets to a hastily prepared barbecue/campaign rally for Hillary Clinton in our nearest town's ice hockey rink. No amount of preparation could have prepared me for the Friday night fiasco just 4 days away.
For space reasons, a long story must be relayed in short form. After placing a letter to Hillary inside, I tied up copies of "Homeschoolers' Success Stories" and "Homeschooling: The Early Years" with gold ribbon. Once at the barbecue, local officials' speeches preceded Hillary's, but the mayor confirmed the buzz that the President and Chelsea would also join us.
Hillary's speech lasted 26 minutes and my ears couldn't take much more about the village raising children. Worse, my tongue couldn't take much more biting. The President then spoke for 6 minutes before a free-for-all to meet, greet, and get autographs began. Even though my husband quickly jockeyed us into "three people deep" position, I couldn't see that the President was making the rounds first. (Is everyone in the world taller than I am?) Although the books were intended for Hillary, my husband convinced me saving them for her was a gamble at this point, and it was best to give them to somebody in the Clinton family.
A few minutes of suspense, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity unfolded. In the blink of an eye, there stood the President of the United States in possession of two homeschooling books, stretching out a long arm above people's heads to shake my hand. Peeking at the title, he told me how he had worked with "these people" while governor. (Hindsight note: I should have told him Arkansas' law is much better now, thank you, that two of the success stories in the book are young women from Arkansas, and that Them is an Arkansas state trooper; that might have piqued his curiosity. Kicking myself is really beginning to hurt.)
Stupidly considerate of the number of people waiting to speak with the President, and remarkably uncomfortable standing there holding his hand with direct eye contact, I said simply, "I know," then added, "Mr. President, there are a lot more homeschoolers today, and we don't need to be organized. Please, please take a look at the books so that you will have a better understanding of who we are and what we do." As arms, hands, Hillary banners, and pens shook in his face, President Clinton maintained eye contact to assure me, "I will. I'll read them."
Thinking that the President had left the barbecue (he did, but he returned), the crowd thinned out enough for my husband to believe that if he got up in the bleachers, and I met up with her in just the right spot, he could snap a picture of Hillary and me, even though I no longer had books to present to her.
I may have been strategically placed for a photo, but my husband wound up perfectly positioned to talk with Hillary first ("My wife has some books on education but your husband has them - be sure to get them"), then Chelsea ("My wife has some books on education but your dad got them and they were intended for your mom"). Chelsea promised to follow up on the books' whereabouts as she rubbed her wrists, grateful that he wasn't requesting yet another autograph. Observing Chelsea while I waited for her mom, I saw a young woman graceful beyond her years.
By now I'd managed to sneak my hand upon the barricade next to "Amazon Man," at least 6' 5" tall with matching heft. Indeed, I was so invisible Hillary greeted the man to the other side of me before he graciously stepped aside to allow me my moment with her. I planned to get the picture, then talk, so I immediately asked her to look up at my husband with me as I threw my arm around her shoulder. (Hindsight note: Don't just automatically throw your arm around people protected by Secret Service men. They are really jumpy sorts.)
So there we were, just Hillary and me (without books), posing for my husband who pressed the camera button and - nothing. He looked at the camera as if to will it to work and tried again. Nothing. My time with Hillary ticked away, I mumbled something about her patience, and my arm locked on her shoulder.
A Good Samaritan standing next to my husband hollered, "I'll take one!" Someone watching from the back of the crowd yelled, "Keep smiling!" If I ever get the photo, any smile is credited to an unknown stranger.
On Sunday we hung around the airport waiting for the President's departure. Secret Service rounded up the 100 or so spectators, "swept" everyone, then placed us neatly as one big package behind a police line.
It grew dark early on a road surrounded by woods; the streetlight came on to attract bugs. (Hindsight note: Monday morning I found out that had I stood at the intersection closest to home I would have caught the man in my own little town, there to visit an old friend. This little tidbit was never reported anywhere, so you didn't hear it from me.)
The crowd's hope that he would stop, as he had throughout his weekend travels, diminished as it grew later. Secret Service men told questioners that they didn't know where he was. (It was hard resisting the temptation to ask what kinds of Secret Service men don't know the whereabouts of the man they're protecting?)
Signaling the President's imminent arrival, a state trooper car drove by shining a spotlight into the woods. One last time I checked the row of people eagerly pressed against the yellow police tape to ensure mine was the very last sign the President would see as he left my neck of the woods.
I spent a whole day at the airport for no other reason than the man's history of dishonesty - to the people, to the courts, indeed, to his own family. What could I do to try to ensure he wouldn't be dishonest about learning how to improve education for all of the nation's children, I had wondered? As headlights approached I stretched my arms as far past the police tape as they would reach, and held out my parting message: "Remember your promise to read my books."
(c) 2000, Linda Dobson
November-December 2000 - Articles
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