It was 2008 and the United States presidential election took place that year. It was an exciting time for me. Since I arrived in Fitchburg State College in 2006, I developed an interest for politics, which accompanied my lifelong passion for history. It was a time in which I was involved in campus activities, particularly in one occasion in which I volunteered to register students to vote (87 people in total). I was excited about this election, although a majority of acquaintances did not share my enthusiasm. I want to mention that I’m not affiliated with any political party, but at the time I was leaning towards Democrat. On Tuesday afternoon, November 4, 2008, I walked from my dorm room at Herlihy Hally and walked 1.4 miles to the Fitchburg Armory (also known as the Fitchburg Senior Center) on Wallace Ave to vote for Candidate Barack Obama, then the junior United States Democratic Senator from Illinois. On the ballot was the name of another politician, whom I had voted for in the previous presidential election: John Kerry. He was running for reelection for the senate and I voted to keep him there. Later that night, the results came in and it was announced Senator Obama had defeated Candidate John McCain, the
Anyways, the election had ended and everything was returning to normal. With the anticipation of looking forward to the Obama Administration and still reeling from election fever, an acquaintance informed me that Senator Kerry was going to speak at the college about the economy, like a Town Hall Meeting. I couldn’t believe my ears and that same acquaintance sent me an invitation to attend via Facebook. When I read the invitation, I resolved that I would attend the meeting. I had voted for Kerry previously for the 2004 Presidential election. I was 18 years old at the time and it was my first time voting. I still remember my excitement that summer over the 2004 Democratic National Convention at the Fleet Center (now the TD Garden) in Boston, Massachusetts about 30 minutes from where I lived. I was disappointed that he had lost to the incumbent Republican President George W. Bush. Now four years later, being a 22 year old college student, I thought of it as a once in a lifetime opportunity to meeting someone who not only plays an important part in our nation and on the world’s stage, but represents the people of my home state: Massachusetts. I felt privileged and honored that he would come and that I would be able to see him. This would also be the first time in which I met someone who actually appeared on television.
Finally the day arrived, Tuesday, December 2 (I’m typing this post three years to the day) I spent the afternoon after class preparing for the meeting. Even though there was no dress code for the occasion, I wanted to look my best for the event. I shaved, showered, brushed my teeth, dressed in a black suit, white dress shirt, and a patriotic tie with depicting small portraits of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy on an American flag. I then made my way an hour early to Kent Recital Hall in the Conlon Building. I arrived with two acquaintances and we sat in our seats conversing on politics. Soon more people began to arrive so I began to socialize with other acquaintances who chuckled at my patriotic tie. Before he arrived, I asked a friend named Meagan, who happened to have a camera to take a picture of me and the Senator. She said that she would. Soon enough when we were all seated, Kerry then arrived at 6:30pm to the sound of applause. I thought "Oh my goodness, it's really him". I knew he was tall, I didn't think he was that tall. In fact he was 6’5, one inch taller than President Lincoln who was 6'4" tall, which would have made him the tallest president if he had won in 2004. After the mayor introduced him, he then stepped forward to speak and spoke for about an hour. Then he took about 5 or 6 questions from the audience. He mentioned that he had to go to Charleston for another event so he had to leave, in my mind I resolved to have that picture taken with him. When the meeting ended, I noticed the crowd was going through the front entrance so there were not a lot of people around Kerry. Even so, he was going to leave quickly and if I had waited longer, what I’m about to write would not have taken place. As he was stepping through the doorway to leave, I shouted "Senator!" He looked up and then I said in a lower voice, "I'm actually down here". When I finally got his attention, I then said, "Senator, I know that you have to leave right away, but could I please have a picture taken with you." "Oh sure," he said. I didn't think he would actually take five second of his time just to have a picture with a nobody like me. I then took his hand and motioned for Meagan to take the picture. When she did take the picture, Kerry then said, "Good luck in school." "Thank you, Sir." I replied as we shook hands once more. Then he was gone.
How did I end up thinking about him when I met him? Well, he sounded very intelligent during the meeting and I thought he was very articulate. I didn't regret having voted for him for reelection 28 days before and in 2004 in the presidential election. Politics aside, I didn't believe the same person who debated President Bush, sailed with President John F. Kennedy (who shared the same initials: J.F.K. – John Forbes Kerry), worked with Senator Ted Kennedy, campaigned with President Bill Clinton, endorsed and campaigned for future President Barack Obama was right in front of me in person. President Clinton said of him in his memoirs, "He was one of the Senate’s leading authorities on the environment and high technology. He also had a devoted an extraordinary amount of time to the problem of youth violence, an issue he cared about since his days as a prosecutor. Caring about an issue in which there are no votes today but which will have a big impact on the future is a very good quality in a politician" (Page 659). Kerry has an outstanding record of service in his community and in this country. I was honored and fortunate to have that picture taken him.
The next day, I watched a political animation parody video presented by JibJab called "This Land" and YouTube videos of his speeches, including his acceptance speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and his debates with President Bush. I still couldn't believe it was him. Meagan e-mailed the photo of our meeting twelve days later on December 14 (The 209th Anniversary of the death of President George Washington. I can’t help it, I’m a history nerd) and uploaded it on Facebook that very same night. I owe alot to Meagan for actually being willing to take the picture of me and the Senator with her camera. She captured a moment in time that I would always remember and cherish. I will always be grateful to her for that. On Facebook, I received some very nice and interesting comments on the picture. I even e-mailed the photo to a college professor who replied, “What a wonderful picture! I expect you will do great things in your life.”
After this meeting I began to think about the story of a young President-to-be meeting a sitting President. That young man was 16-year-old Bill Clinton from Hope, Arkansas who while attending Boy’s Nation which was a special youth leadership conference, went with other young men to the White House in 1963 and met the sitting President of the United States: 46-year-old John F. Kennedy. Here is an excerpt that I would like to share from Bill Clinton's autobiography entitled "My Life": "On Wednesday, July 24, we went to the White House to meet the President in the Rose Garden. President Kennedy walked out the of Oval Office in the bright sunshine and made some brief remarks, complementing our work, especially our support for civil rights, and giving us higher marks than the governors, who had not been so forward-leaning in their annual summer meeting. After accepting a Boys Nation T-Shirt, Kennedy walked down the steps and began shaking hands. I was in the front, and being bigger and a bigger supporter of the President’s than most of the others, I’d made sure I’d get to shake his hand even if he shook only two of three. It was an amazing moment for me, meeting the President whom I had supported in my ninth-grade class debates, and about whom I felt even more strongly after his two and a half years in office. A friend took a photo for me, and later we found film footage of the handshake in the Kennedy Library" (Page 62).
That event was one of the most memorable, important experiences of his youth and after his meeting, went on to having in my opinion a successful political career from working on the campaign of the Democratic candidate for president, George McGovern in 1972, getting elected to the position of Attorney General in Arkansas in 1976, elected as the Governor of Arkansas in 1978 and 1982, finally becoming elected to be the 42nd President of the United States in 1992. Clinton mentioned that someone was kind enough to take a photo of their meeting and maybe without this meeting Clinton would have never become president. Now forty-five years later, I had a photo of a meeting with another political figure from Massachusetts and began to wonder if I could ever have a political career. After the election of President Obama, I thought that anything was possible. Some people said that I ought to go into politics, but I'm not too sure about that and even now it seems very unlikely. Perhaps I made too much of the photo and the handshake. Even so, the meeting with John Kerry has inspired me to do one thing that I'm currently undertaking and that is service for the community. I am aware that missionary work is not in same area as public service, but it is service.
True the year is almost over and I'm at a point in my life where I'm on the verge of making that decision as to my future plans. I may never hold a political office, but I would be satisfied to be an adviser or even a speech writer to a political officer. Whatever position or profession I am to be placed in, I hope be a person that can be a good example and a positive influence towards those whom I will be working with. In the meantime, while I am still young I need to work hard, read, study, look, listen, and see. I should not become a day dreamer, but a practical worker. I want to close in another excerpt from Bill Clinton's memoirs: "Much has been made of that brief encounter and its impact on my life. My mother said she knew when I came home that I was determined to go into politics, and after I became the Democratic nominee in 1992, the film was widely pointed as the beginning of my presidential aspirations. I’m not sure about that. I have a copy of the speech I gave to the American Legion in Hot Springs after I came home, and in it I didn’t make too much of the handshake. I thought at the time I wanted to become a senator, but deep down I probably felt as Abraham Lincoln did when he wrote as a young man, 'I will study and get ready, and perhaps my chance will come.' ”