Meeting Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
July 26, 2014




As I came home one Sunday evening I was greeted by my mother, who said she saw something in the newspaper and put it aside for me. It was a half-page advertisement for Hillary Clinton's upcoming book signing at a Sam's Club in nearby Seekonk, Massachusetts. Each attendee was allowed to have up to two copies of Clinton's new autobiography, Hard Choices, autographed. The newspaper said the event was to begin at 2:00 p.m. with wristband distribution set for 7:00 a.m. This was a great opportunity as not only was Mrs. Clinton formerly first lady and secretary of state, but I knew there was the possibility she could be the next president. The book signing was going to take place at the end of the week, and though my father and I did not fully commit ourselves to going for a few days, by Thursday we started to strategize. It was established that he would camp outside the store overnight and I would drive to Seekonk in time to receive my wristbands the next morning.

Before long it was Friday evening, the night before the event. My father arrived slightly before midnight, and though he was not the first person to reach Sam's Club, he was the first to venture from his vehicle and pick a spot to sit outside the store. Panicked, others soon followed his example and claimed their place in the freshly-established line. I joined my father at the head of the line around 6:35 that morning after a brief night's sleep. He and several other people toward the front had formed a close-knit group and had passed the hours by discussing all manner of topics. Not surprisingly, the group already knew a lot of my presidential adventures.

Around 7:00 o'clock we were led inside to receive our wristbands. My father purchased our copies of Clinton's book and we resumed our wait in line for the next five-plus hours, during which our group continued to bond.

At one point, a tour bus emblazoned with the phrases "Join the Movement" and "Ready for Hillary" pulled into the parking lot. The woman in line directly behind us, Michelle, quickly went down to the bus with her friend's granddaughter and they returned with campaign-style buttons for the group members. Shortly afterward we were again led inside, this time to be wanded by Secret Service agents, who we had seen arrive sometime earlier. After we were checked, we walked down to the back of the store, where a metal barrier was placed to separate us from where Mrs. Clinton would eventually be seated.

There was still over an hour until the former secretary of state was set to arrive, which gave our group time to strategize about picture-taking. Attendees had previously been told that photography was prohibited. The plan my father came up with was, since we were the first people in line, to ask Mrs. Clinton if an exception could be made for a picture. Not too long after, several injured and physically disabled people were allowed ahead of us by organizers for quicker, easier access. We supported this completely understandable move, but it also blew our strategy out of the water. However, it was then said that we could take pictures once we reached the area where the press was situated. The collective decision was that, when whoever just met Mrs. Clinton reached the press area, they would turn around and photograph the person behind them as they had their turn interacting with the former first lady.

At approximately 2:00 p.m., Hillary Clinton emerged from behind a towering wall of paper towels to a chorus of cheers and claps. She soon took her place at a table covered with copies of Hard Choices, and the book signing officially began. The injured and physically disabled visitors started to make their way up to Mrs. Clinton as the barrier in front of us was removed and we filed in behind them. Despite the hours of waiting my father and I had not given much thought into what we intended to say to the former first lady. We quickly bounced some ideas off each other, but before we knew it my father was face-to-face with the potential 2016 presidential candidate.

Mrs. Clinton greeted my father, who told her that he had been the very first person in line, waiting since the previous night. When she asked him what inspired him to do that, he explained that he had done so on my behalf, gesturing to me as he did, and told her he had done the same thing years earlier so I could meet her husband, the former president. As my father left the table Mrs. Clinton turned her attention to me and asked why I was so interested in attending. I explained I was a history major at Bryant University who was likely the only person in the world to visit the burial sites of every U.S. president and vice president. This encouraged Michelle behind me to tell the former first lady I had a great-looking business card for my website, and Mrs. Clinton asked to see one.

As the Secret Service eyed me I reached for one of my cards, which for my safety I had strategically placed in my shirt pocket earlier in case such an opportunity arose. I handed Mrs. Clinton the card and pointed out the address for my website. Unprompted, she turned over the card and saw an image of my father and me with James Leavelle, who I explained I interviewed in my senior year of high school. Visibly amazed, she exclaimed "Oh my God!", and said that she was going to give my card to her husband, who would be interested in my website. I asked if she wanted a second card for herself, which she also took. We continued to talk, discussing how Richard Norton Smith, the prominent historian who inspired my grave hunting quest, had signed my guest book a few months prior. Mrs. Clinton again expressed that she was impressed before we had to part ways so the event could proceed. We both thanked each other for coming, and I started to walk over to a different station to pick up my books.

In all I talked with the former secretary of state for, at my estimate, a minute and a half, much longer than the norm at book signings. This caught the attention of several media outlets, and I was soon pulled aside by a reporter from The Providence Journal. The Projo did not end up using any of my material, but I did appear on several local television stations that evening. Apart from my interview, WPRI 12 also aired footage of me interacting with the former first lady, including the moment she said "Oh my God!" while looking at my business card.

My incredibly successful interaction with Secretary Clinton made for a great day, but the realization that we had access to broadcast quality video footage of it made the day even better. The WPRI 12 news clip can be viewed below.

On July 26, 2016, exactly two years after I met her, Hillary Clinton became the first female to be selected as a presidential candidate on a major party ticket.


 
 
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