Monday, June 25, 2007

breakfast with bill

Yesterday I had the good fortune of being invited to a small fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. It was at a fancy house high on a hill, political officials, wealthy democrats and a generous serving of secret service men all rounded out the venue.

I had been invited on a fluke - I am not a mover or a shaker, I have not contributed financially, I have not publicly declared my allegiance to her campaign. But a colleague who fits the above asked me to join him and I happily agreed because I am a big fan of Bill. He was the first and last president I believed in in my lifetime. He sparked my fascination in politics and gave me someone to cheer for. He showed us that the ordinary can become extraordinary. That perseverance can make a difference. Sure, he was villified by the conservative left and made a few stupid mistakes, but the sum of this man has always impressed me and inspired me to do more.

The environment was tense; everyone wanted a piece of him and to be honest, myself included. I feel strongly, as strongly as a young girl dreams about ponies, that I should come work for his foundation. The Clinton Foundation is doing tremendous work around HIV/AIDS in Asia and Africa and I've long wanted to be a part of it (and indeed I have tried, I've lamented before about not being able to find my path into international relief work.) And I've not given up, universe. I will not give up.

Sadly, I didn't have a chance to talk about that, another pony dream crashes to the ground. But I did get to stand with him and listen to him talk about why Hillary would make a good leader. About how leadership requires listening and bi-partisan support. About poverty and bridging the divide. That we have a chance to become someone the world likes again. Once again I am inspired to do more, to not give up. To believe change is possible. After his speech he was able to take 4-5 questions and I was fortunate enough for one of those to be mine.

I spontaneously raised my hands among the throng of others. I was very close to the podium (that picture isn't magnified) when he looked right at me, smiled and pointed. At me. Dude.

Mr. President, I've worked with homeless men, women and children for the past decade. You've talked a lot today about bridging the divide domestically and internationally. About poverty and illness. But you haven't mentioned housing. To me, all the health care policy in the world won't be effective without also addressing the lack of affordable housing. What are your thoughts on what can be done?

And he listened and nodded and said good question with a smile. His eye contact is spectacular, my knees were starting to wobble. He responded eloquently about the mistakes being made right now in regards to public housing and to the efforts he is personally making in New Orleans. To be honest, I was so in the moment with this man that I forgot the rest of his answer because for a minute those 200 or so other people disappeared and time stood still. And what I should have included was I would be happy to help you with this. But I didn't and the moment shifted and time moved on.

I am not a mover or a shaker. I am just a girl with a desire to do more. To work in Asia or Africa and be a part of solutions and policy and programs there. To see an end to homelessness. I don't want fame or fortune. But I do want to be a part of something bigger - that when all is said and done I can leave this world feeling like I contributed to it being a better place. I want to lead by example so M has something to believe in and hopefully, a better world to grow old in. A place where children live more equitably, in health and homes and schools.

And for a brief moment in time I felt that energy and it's potential. Standing in the face of extraordinary leadership can do that to a girl. And all that talk about charisma is exactly right.

Not bad at all for an ordinary Sunday morning in June.

50 comments:

Christine said...

Dude.

I love Bill. You lucky dog, you.

And just as Bill inspires you, you inspire the rest of us.

painted maypole said...

Dude. You inspire me to do more.

I like Bill, too. Hillary, I haven't taken the time to learn enough about. yet.

Oh, The Joys said...

An interesting new project unfolded for me today... can't wait to talk with you about it...
Best,
J

Aliki2006 said...

I'm envious that you got to stand so close to Bill and I am so so inspired by what you wrote. Dare I feel a surge of hope for this country? Reading your post, I do. I want to hold onto that feeling.

meno said...

Charisma, thy name is Bill.

I am so jealous. Dude!

slouching mom said...

Yep, me too. Jealous.

Your question was a terrific one, even if you were too weak-kneed to hear the answer! ;)

liv said...

please don't use the phrase "just a girl" anything in your blog. you're a ton more than that. how about "just a rockstar"?

thailandchani said...

Send a resume to the Clinton Foundation. (No, I'm not kidding. :) I honestly believe this is your next step.

I agree with you entirely about him, btw. He is the last president I voted for.


Peace,

~Chani

venessa said...

You are lucky for so many reasons, but breakfast with Bill? Envious over here. I hope you send in your resume. They need you.

Pgoodness said...

You are so cool!!!! You raised your hand and asked BILL CLINTON a question - YOU ROCK!!!!!!!
(and I agree with Chani - send in your resume - what's the worst that can happen??)

jen said...

oh, ladies..trust me...i have. i have.

and thank you..yes..it was really pretty cool.

Tabba said...

"I am not a mover or a shaker. I am just a girl with a desire to do more. To work in Asia or Africa and be a part of solutions and policy and programs there. To see an end to homelessness. I don't want fame or fortune. But I do want to be a part of something bigger - that when all is said and done I can leave this world feeling like I contributed to it being a better place. I want to lead by example so M has something to believe in and hopefully, a better world to grow old in. A place where children live more equitably, in health and homes and schools."

Um. This? Poetic. Perfect. Beautiful.

And dude. What an experience.
You're so right about Bill. So right.

Hel said...

I got goosebumps all over and then a cried a little bit.

Because I wanted this so badly too.

flutter said...


I am not a mover or a shaker. I am just a girl with a desire to do more.


((jen))

Susanne said...

Wow. Not an ordinary morning...

And you not a mover and shaker? Jen, you're moving and shaking the blogosphere like mad.

And maybe you should do what Chani said. Feels about right.

Susanne said...

Blödsinn. Maybe. Not "maybe" and not "about right". Do it.

Sober Briquette said...

Incredible. Just being there, but then to get to ask a question. Shazam! (And if you actually kept a clear head and plugged yourself on top of it all, then you'd be superwoman.)

It surprises me every time that you are not snatched up for whatever position it is you seek.

QT said...

Holy balls - how did you not wet your pants?

Because dude, I TOTALLY would have - Bill fucking Clinton? Pointed at you so you could ask a question?

Yeah, I pretty much would not have remembered the whole answer either.

Girl, you are so money and you don't even know it. You're like a big bear with claws and fangs, and that job? Like a little bunny, who's just kinda cowering in the corner. :)

Jenn said...

My knees were knocking for you.

You are leading by example.

Do you have any idea how your words and actions inspire me?

Do you know that when I think of all the good in the world, I think of you, and I don't even know you?

Each day that you are here, there is no ordinary morning. You simply aren't capable of that.

Gwen said...

DUDE. Bill Clinton? Love.

His wife? Not so much.

Good for you and your question and your dreams of doing good in the world. Make it so, Number One.

Karen said...

Honestly, my first thought was the same as Chani's. Send a resume and a letter, mentioning this "meeting." Who knows? You rock and I'm pretty jealous like the rest!

NotSoSage said...

I have goosebumps.

I am so there with you, friend. I want to take off and start that work, too. I have been telling myself that if I work toward the qualifications I need I will do more and better work, but I want to be doing it NOW. Will someone please pay my mortgage so I can go to work full time and finally start pitching in? Dude.

Jocelyn said...

Oh, the charisma! Not just of him--you, too. And you ARE a mover and a shaker, just in your own way.

I get the Bill thing, for sure. I have the same thing for post-presidency Jimmy Carter, even bigger, perhaps. Love those men.

kristen said...

i got all teary eyed when i read this jen. so proud that you raised your hand, that your question was so eloquent and thoughtful and something every politician at that event should consider.

i have a friend whose been to a fund-raiser where he was in the room and she confirmed that he's the most dynamic person she's ever been in the room with.

kristen said...

ps. i agree with chani - you should send a resume and letter to the clinton foundation. send it to his office up in harlem, send it. i think he'll remember you, how could he not? seriously. xo

mitzh said...

You have a heart of gold. This world needs more people like you...

Julie Pippert said...

Oh Jen oh wow HOW AMAZING!

He'd be lucky to have you. And boy did you ever move and shake today!

Magpie said...

Dude! He's really something, that Bill. And so are you!

Lawyer Mama said...

Dude!

(You know we're all going to do this Dude thing to you constantly now, right?)

I'm so jealous! Your question was fantastic! I'm impressed that you were able to speak in the midst of all of that charisma.

To be a part of something bigger. I think that's what many people want and what many people are searching for. But you - you're inspired to actually do it. To help others and to make something bigger than yourself.

Ah, Jen, you're amazing. Simply amazing.

mamatulip said...

Not bad, indeed.

kgirl said...

oh wow, i got a shiver when he looked at you! he would be so, so lucky to have you. send that resume!

Mrs. Chicky said...

You made eye contact with BILL?? You spoke to BILL?? You asked BILL a question and he answered?? I am so impressed with this (and your question, good one) I don't even have words to describe just how impressed I am.

J Fife said...

Add me to the jealous pile. I would have never had the cajones to raise my hand and ask a question, a great question, like you did. Damn, Jen, you rock!

Orangeblossoms said...

Wow. Not only do you have a beautiful voice, you find it and use it when it is most important. You are absolutely amazing.

Maurey Pierce said...

So jealous.

Anjali said...

Oh, I get goosebumps reading your post. I, too, will forever be a Bill Groupie.

I heard him speak when he was first campaigning for president. Afterwards, he shook hands of the crowd. I reached high above my head, and grabbed onto his hand. For one second, it was like walking on air!

Blog Antagonist said...

How monumentally cool. I really liked Bill as a president. Too bad his shenanigans with Monica overshadowed everything else. I'm so impressed that you could actually formulate a sentence. I think I might have said something like..."Yurg."

KC said...

Oh wow! I'm lifted right up there with you, sister. How perfect of a question to ask- yes, eloquent and smart and important. I would have said, "DUH.....Um...."

You are a force to be reckoned with.

xo

Deezee said...

Well, you are already more than showing the way with your leadership and action (as all of us know!) Bill, he has charm and the smarts to back it up so I'm glad you threw a question his way. I can't say that I'm a Hillary fan, though, but that is a long, long conversation...

Laurie said...

I saw Bill speak at a rally in Billings, Montana when he was still governor. He is an amazing man, as you said. And you are an amazing woman.

christina said...

Ugh, even as a tween.. I loved bill clinton. as I got older and learned and read more about him my adoration grew bigger. And being in his presense must have been so inspirational.

I know when The Obama campaign swings my way.. I'll be there.. maybe i'll even buy a cool hat or something! Good question!!

Bon said...

dude, indeed. you run in cool circles, friend. and definitely, hit the man up for a job. we will all be references. :)

i come from the school of thought that wants my leaders - and even though i'm Canadian, i'm kinda stuck with ye olde US President as my leader, de facto - to be smart, and charismatic, and be able to deal in complexity. Clinton had those qualities. i didn't agree with many of his political choices during his terms in office - but i still thought he was a tolerable world leader, he still inspired my confidence. even before i had W to compare him to.

i would be happy to see the Clintons in office again...

luckyzmom said...

I am proud.

The Holmes said...

How very cool. I love Bill. He's still my prez.

Lucia said...

Did you get up close? Big head. Big hands.

Ruth Dynamite said...

You could run Bill Clinton's foundation with your eyes closed.

It'll happen, Jen. In due time.

Ally said...

Thanks for the chance to live vicariously through your interaction with Bill.

I was at Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth presentation last year in Seattle and one woman got up for her question and said, "I have two questions: one, did you receive the resume that I sent to you, and two, if you didn't, could I give you another copy right now?" I was astonished at her boldness, and thought "hat's off to her for going after what she wants." Gore said, cleverly and with a smile, "yes, I have an open position in the mail-opening room..." and let her bring the resume to him on stage. I'm still wondering whether she got a job...

carrie said...

Now I have goosebumps.

I know exactly what you mean, as I've had me own "Clinton" moment - when he was campaigning before his first election.

It forever changed and shaped me politically as well.

Don't every give up on that dream to be part of something BIG.

Carrie

karrie said...

I'm farther left than Bill or Hillary, but she has my vote for a number of reasons.

:)

The Expatriate Chef said...

When I read statistics on what the Iraq war has cost and what we could do with that money instead, it gets me really angry. If a political leader acted as you do, Jen, these changes would occur. Homelessness, housing, AIDS prevention and treatment, basic health care, decent food, decent planet. The list is so fundamental, simply human needs, so why is it not the focus? Mystifies me.