Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Christmas I met a president

Since I was a little boy I had always wanted to meet a president.

I remember one Sunday afternoon my whole family sat and watched Richard Nixon deliver a speech on the television.  The only response to his speech that I remember was that of my grandmother, who said that she didn't believe a word he said.  She was also a Republican.

It intrigued me immediately why the entire country would put someone in charge that a fair amount of people distrust so much.  Whoever these mysterious people were that got to be president, I knew I had to meet one eventually...and about eight years ago I finally did.

I met Jimmy Carter.

Yeah, I know.  I could sense the expression on your face when you read it and I haven't even finished typing this sentence yet.  It's like saying you got your picture taken with the 2001 Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.  It's kinda cool...I guess.

President Carter was in Seattle for a book signing of his Christmas memoire, Christmas in Plains.  I bought a voucher for the book which was essentially a ticket to stand in a long line and wait for him to scribble his name on the title page.  I was surprised that the line was so long to see a rather unpopular one-term president, but this was Seattle after all.  Many of the people in line still had Dukakis bumperstickers affixed to their Volvos. 

After about forty minutes in line I finally got up to the table where President Carter was and he decided it was time to take a break.  There I was standing across a table watching a former president drink water.  I would have time to talk to him if I wanted, but what would I say?

He sensed the tension as only a man who brought peace to Egypt and Israel could, and broke the ice.

"What are your plans for Christmas?"  He asked in his warm southern accent.

I had a tough time with this question.  I knew he probably was used to having an awesome Christmas.  Why else would he bother to write a book about it?  I didn't want to spoil the moment and tell him what kind of Christmas I had in front of me.

In fact Christmas Day was a marathon of traveling between two family events that were hours apart and usually involved a turkey dinner where the turkey was out of the oven about the time everyone was ready to leave.  It was exhausting and rarely worth the fuss.  Merry Christmas, President Carter.

"Um, well...I'll be spending it with family."  I stammered.

"Oh that's nice."  he replied.  "Family is important." he continued.

"What are you and Rosalynn doing?"  I asked.

"Oh we......"  he replied as I wasn't listening because all I was thinking about was how I was having a conversation with a president.

He signed my book and we wished each other a Merry Christmas and I walked on by the Secret Serviceman who was beside him and returned to my car in the parking lot.

I finally got around to reading his book about two years after our brief meeting and I was taken by his descriptions of Christmas from his youth.  His memories were filled with humility and service for others and lots and lots of family.  I was right...his Christmas' were awesome.

I'm not sure my Christmas memories will ever match those of President Carter, but they're memorable all the same.  Who knows, maybe I'll write my own Christmas memoire.

Merry Christmas to all of you and may God bless you with peace.

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