Running with the President

This particular blog is about politics. However, this blog shares no political viewpoints in any form. It will be obvious what political party I was raised in through these three stories…

With a presidential election right around the bend, politics are weighing heavily on people’s minds like they do every four years. When I think about my life in politics, three stories from my youth come to mind, where I was taught valuable lessons.

I am neither intelligent enough or in some cases foolish enough to be a politician. I was raised in a family that took their civic responsibilities of voting very seriously. At a young age, I knew a lot that was going on in the political realm of the United States.

I struggled to get up in class to do a speech without my hands violently shaking and my eyes watering. There was no way that I was ever going to run for any type of office in school, since getting on a stage was the last thing I wanted to do. I had to enjoy politics from reading and watching it on television, instead of participating in it.

Here are three short stories that shaped politics in my life:

Hello Ms. Mayor; Yes I am in my Underwear

Martha Wood was the mayor of Winston-Salem from 1989-1997. She was the first and only female mayor of the city of a little over 230,000 people. My father worked on both of her campaigns.

I remember celebrating her victory one election at the Sawtooth Center. I also remember wearing a royal blue “Vote for Martha Wood” pen to school, and having a royal blue Martha Wood trucker hat on my hat rack (this was before trucker hats were popular).

One day when I was eight or nine-years-old, there was a knock on the door at my house in the West End. Prior to my boxer wearing days, I did sport Hanes tightie-whities as my underwear of choice. Back in those days, parents also didn’t have issues with leaving their young children at home to run out to the store or at least my parents didn’t.

As I played in my room, I heard a knock on the front door. I guess I just assumed that it was my parents getting home from their errand. I really am unsure of why I was just in my underwear, but I bounded down the stairs, probably jumping the last five and army rolling across the hall floor rug.

I opened the door and turned around to run back upstairs. As I sprinted back across the hall, there was another knock on the screen door. This was unusual, since my parents usually would have just walked in the screen door. I turned around and there stood a gray-haired woman with a cardboard box.

I had seen pictures of Mayor Wood, and my parents had pointed her out in public, so I knew who she was at that time. Not sure what to do, I slowly walked back across the hall in my underwear as the future mayor looked on. I slowly opened the door.

“Hello, I am Martha Wood and I am dropping this box off for your dad to help hand out these pamphlets, is he around?” she asked.

I shook my head no, and she asked if I could give him the box when he got home. I shook my head yes, frozen and not able to speak, since I was standing in my tightie-whities as the future mayor looked on.

She smiled and said, “thank you,” and turned around and left. The next time I saw Mayor Wood, she was celebrating her victory of becoming the first-female mayor of Winston-Salem. I was clothed this time.

Political Lesson #1-Never answer the door in your underwear,  because it could be the future mayor!

“Clinton Sucks” Head-Butt

I went to a fairly conservative school from sixth through eighth grade. Meaning most of the parents of the students were conservative, and the kids just followed what they heard their parents say at home.

The school had a junior high from seventh through ninth grade. I was one of the few kids that wore Clinton/Gore pens or shirts to school that 1992 school year. Bush/Quayle gear ruled the backpacks, lunch boxes, and shirts of the hallways.

It was within my first month or two of moving up to the junior high. I was also small, very small, for my age. At lunch one day, a ninth-grader, who could already probably grow a full beard at that time and that was twice my size, called me and another Clinton/Gore friend over to his table.

Thinking we were pretty cool, we headed his way. He motioned for us to come in like he was going to whisper something to us.

We leaned in and he grabbed us both by the back of the head and slammed our heads together as he yelled, “Clinton Sucks!”

The entire cafeteria looked on as my friend and I looked at each other, not really quite sure what to do in that situation. We quietly gathered our lunches and walked into a different room to eat. Unfortunately for the ninth grader, my friend’s mom was a teacher at the school and when she found out, she turned him in.

I had to go to the principal’s office, so he could apologize to me. I really was not that upset at the time over the situation. I continued to see him throughout high school and I was good friends with his sister. I did plenty of regrettable things throughout my childhood that I thought were very funny at the time, as I now think this story is pretty laughable.

Political Lesson #2As a parent, don’t let your kids wear political memorabilia to middle school. Especially if it is opposite of the majority at the school. Kids at that age are mean.

Running with the President

The same year as the head-butt, Bill Clinton came to Winston-Salem to speak at a town-hall at the YWCA right across the street from my house. At the time, it was a tight race between Clinton and Bush, as Clinton was trying to unseat Bush from the presidency.

Somehow, my dad found out that Clinton would be running around Hanes Park early that morning, before he had the town-hall and before my dad took me to school. As my dad liked to do, he ripped off the blanket to get me out of bed. This time it was just half an hour earlier than usual.

He told me to hurry up and get dressed so we could go see Bill Clinton. We headed down Brookstown towards Hanes Park as it was still dark outside and very cold on that late October morning.

My dad told me to go ahead and run down to see if I saw Clinton. Usually when somebody that is running for president is around, you assume that there will be people lining the street. This particular morning, my dad and I were the only ones foolish enough to be out there.

One thing I was naturally talented in growing up was that I was fast, especially at long distances. I was already running nineteen minute 5ks in middle school. As I sprinted down the steep Brookstown hill, I spotted four men running on the other side of West End Boulevard. I turned around with my hands up as my dad was still way up the hill in his business suit. He shouted down to run around the 1.2 miles that circled the park with Clinton.

I had no idea what to do as I noticed the three secret-service men, surrounding the future president as he jogged on the sidewalk and they did too.

I didn’t know if I should cross and run on the same side of the street or if they would shoot me if I tried. So I settled on running on the opposite side of the street. At first, I kept looking over to try to get their attention, but they just kept looking forward as they continued the run.

As I ran the 1.2 miles with Clinton on the other side of the street, I realized he wasn’t looking over at me, because he was struggling and looked really gassed. This was a real effort for him to make this run. I, on the other hand, was struggling to run that slow.

At some points, I found myself drifting out in front of them and having to stop to wait for them to catch up on the other side of the street. As we climbed up Glade Street, I saw my dad and ran to where he was, as Clinton and his secret servicemen carried on their way. Clinton went on to win that election fairly easily, just like I fairly easily could have dusted him around Hanes Park.

Political Lesson #3-Presidents might be brilliant people, but they aren’t that fast when it comes to running.

5 thoughts on “Running with the President”

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