Friday, October 22, 2010

Counting presidents

Today I went down to Blue Bell to attend a rally in support of Pat Toomey who's running for a U.S. Senate seat. Toomey's running against Joe Sestak, who has gained some distinction by managing to advocate positions that are actually to the left of those espoused by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Sestak has been a disaster as a member of the House of Representatives, and he would be a worse disaster as a member of the Senate.

Pat Toomey, of course, spoke at the event, as did Rudy Giuliani who was here to endorse him and campaign for him. They're both very impressive public speakers, as you would imagine. At that level of politics there is seldom room for a candidate who can't give an excellent speech in person to a medium or large crowd. And there is absolutely no room for someone who can't impress a small crowd, impress them a lot.

I've only attended one other political rally in my life, and I went to that one as, ahem, a gentleman of the press rather than as a partisan. It happened that in 1992 I was writing an article and an opinion column each week for The Collegeville Independent and the newspaper got me a press pass to a campaign speech given by President George H.W. Bush at the Uniform Tube factory in Collegeville. Jimmy Stewart, the editor of the Collegeville Independent and I were in the front row of the press section for that speech along with reporters from other local papers. Reporters from the national press were in the second and third rows. Someday I'll find a copy of the rather quirky article I wrote about the event and transcribe it here. Suffice it to say that George H.W. Bush gave a great speech that day. He was not as good a public speaker as President Clinton who beat him in that election; but he gave the most impressive speech I've ever seen in person, and I've seen a lot of corporate speakers.

But that's not what I want to write about today. Today I want to mention that George H.W. Bush (the first President Bush) is the only president I've ever seen in the flesh. I've watched a lot of political speechers on TV; but, as I mentioned, I've never been a big one for going to political events.

The other night during our walk I learned that Linda has also only seen one president in person. In her case it was President Richard Nixon, who gave a brief speech in Hawaii when Admiral John S. McCain Jr. (Senator John McCain's father) retired from the navy in 1972.

All of this got me to wondering who I might know who has seen a lot of presidents; and that led me to call my uncle Bert DeAngelis a few hours ago. I knew that Uncle Bert had been involved in local politics, as a Republican Committeeman, for many years; so I suspected he had seen a few presidents in person and I was not disappointed. It turns out he's been a Republican Committeman for 51 years, so he's naturally attended a lot of political events. But even before he became a committeeman he was attending political events.

He saw President Harry Truman when Truman came to Bridgeport to give a speech. Bert said Truman was presented with a bolt of cloth from a local factory that was to be used in making him a new suit. And he saw President John F. Kennedy when Kennedy came to Norristown to give a speech while he was campaigning for the presidency against Richard Nixon in 1960. Nixon gave a speech in Norristown on the same day; but Uncle Bert went to the Kennedy speech, so he never saw Nixon. Incidently, Uncle Bert mentioned that he voted for Adlai Stevenson when he ran against Dwight Eisenhower, and he voted for Kennedy. So, like Ronald Reagan, Uncle Bert was a liberal in his youth, before he became older and wiser.

But liberal and conservative are relative, of course. Today Truman, Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson would not be welcome in the Democratic Party. Going further than that, those three men could not have imagined how far left the Democratic Party would move and has moved in the past forty years.

But back to Uncle Bert. In addition to Presidents Truman and Kennedy, he also has seen Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. So in the course of his life he's seen five presidents in the flesh.

Leave a comment if you have ever seen a president in person. It doesn't have to be while they were president.

1 comment:

Alex said...

I saw Clinton when he spoke in Worcester at Martha Coakley's rally. Christina saw Obama in Boston Commons when he was running for the primary. I don't think that republican candidates or former pres.s ever come to MA.