June 11th, 2013


History meme: Presidents (redux)

Well, maybe I have a little more to say about Presidents.

I've never met a U.S. President. I've met a few Presidential candidates, though.

  • In 1980, I shook independent candidate John Anderson's hand after a campaign appearance in my hometown. My mom was a big Anderson supporter; she didn't like Ronald Reagan, and she'd become disillusioned by Jimmy Carter over the course of his presidency. My handshake did not prove to be lucky for him; he earned 6.6% of the vote in the November election and failed to win even a single precinct. I probably would've voted for him if I hadn't been 12.
  • In 1992, I met and spoke briefly with John Hagelin at a campaign event in Bethesda, Maryland. Hagelin, a Harvard-trained theoretical physicist who had worked at CERN and SLAC before joining the faculty of Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa, was the Presidential nominee of the Natural Law Party, a political party affiliated with the Transcendental Meditation movement that aimed to improve government by applying "natural law." That was a sufficiently weird combination to attract my attention, so I stopped by the event on my way home. Hagelin was a nice guy and seemed quite sincere, but ultimately I decided to vote for Bil Clinton instead. Hagelin ended up with a mere 0.04% of the vote that year. (He was more successful in 1996, tripling his share of the vote. He made one more run in 2000, but fell back to 0.08% of votes cast.
  • In 1993, I shared an elevator in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington with Senator Paul Simon, who made an unsuccessful run for the Democratic nomination in 1988. I was waiting for the Senators-and-staff elevator when Sen. Simon came in and hit the button to call the Senators-only elevator. When it arrived before mine, he asked if I was going down and invited me to join him when I said I was. He then proceeded to hold out his hand and introduce himself, which was spectacularly unnecessary but very much appreciated nonetheless. I told him I'd grown up in Illinois and that my mom was a big fan.

I've also met former Cornell College President David Marker. In fact, he was among the first people I met as a Cornell student; I was moving into my room on the first day of new student orientation when he came wandering through the dorm introducing himself to the fresh meat. The interesting thing about it was that he just introduced himself by name, without mentioning he was the college president. That made a good first impression.