When I started college at American University, it was right around the time Bill Clinton was elected president. He came to the university to give one of his first big foreign-policy speeches. Anyone who wanted to go knew that they had to be there at least two hours early just to ensure they’d have a spot in the room to hear it.
All of my friends really wanted to hear the president speak, but listening to a boring speech wasn’t something I was all too excited for. They ended up dragging me along two hours early, and we waited for what felt like forever. If you’ve ever been to a presidential speech, you know that once you go in, security doesn’t let you leave the building and come back in for safety reasons. However, at one point, I needed something to eat and ended up talking to afew of the security guys. I told them I was a student there and could go right across the street to the campus convenience store.
Surprisingly, they let me leave, and I came back with a box of donuts. When I went back inside the arena, I sold the rest of my donuts for a dollar each, making eight bucks. I was sugared up, happy with the small profit I made, and feeling pretty good by the time Bill Clinton came out from a side door and walked up to the stage to give his speech.
The opening of the address was all about how he had been to American University when he was younger and met a girl there. After that, it went exactly as I expected: He gave a huge, long, and boring speech. Afterward, people rushed the stage to get him to sign their programs or anything they had on hand. Meanwhile, I went back over to the side door the president had come out of earlier and started joking around with the secret service agents who were standing guard. Just when I told some hysterical joke, Bill Clinton came over to us.
I could tell that he thought I was the kid of someone who worked for him. He shook my hand and asked how I was doing. “Oh, fine, Mr. President,” I said. “But I do have a quick question for you. Whatever happened to that girl you met?” Bill started telling me all about how he had met her on a train coming from Arkansas, how they met a few times throughout their studies, how he took her out to the movies a few times, and how beautiful she was.
While he was talking to me, he continued to walk through the door he had come out of earlier, still holding my hand. I found myself in a back room with Bill Clinton and two of his secret service agents. He was going on and on about this woman until he realized that he was talking to a random college student and should be a bit more presidential. Bill then tells me, “You know, I always knew I wanted to be president someday, so I always kept in touch with everyone from college to ask for their eventual vote. And I really regret not having kept in touch with her.”
“Well, Mr. President,” I said. “There’s one thing for sure that we know about her.” When Bill Clintonasked me what that might have been, I responded, “She voted for George Bush.” The secret service guys were trying to bite back their laughter and I started chuckling, too. But the president turned on his heel and stormed off, muttering, “Funny, very effing funny.”
He was the only president I’ve ever met, and I found it fascinating that even though he was 2 inches shorter than I was, he was much bigger. Thinking about it afterward, it felt as though I had been talking to a giant. It also struck me as amusing that he was talking about a girl he used to know as a teenager but didn’t have a sense of humor about himself at all.
Here’s hoping the next president I meet appreciates my jokes a little more.