I spent election night 2004 in Chicago, arriving a few days before the Wine Experience, which was held that year at the Hyatt Regency.
It had been a great few days in the city, with magnificent weather, and I was watching the returns with my colleague Harvey Steiman, also from the blue state of California. Once Ohio went red, Harv turned to me and said, “Well, that’s it, let’s go.”
He had booked dinner for us at Moto, Homaro Cantu’s incredible restaurant, which was new at the time. We agreed to meet around 7 p.m. at the front of the hotel to catch a cab.
I arrived a few minutes early and took a seat near the door and in walked the skinny new Senator-elect from Illinois, nattily dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and tie.
I knew who he was: he had given a brilliant speech at the Democratic Convention that summer and his picture was everywhere in Chicago: on TV, in newspapers and on signs and billboards throughout the city.
He had that quiet air of confidence about him as he stepped into the hotel, looking a bit lonely and lost in what should have been a swarm of admirers. But then he broke into a big smile and I stood up to shake his hand and congratulate him on his victory.
I remember being extremely nervous, not so much at meeting the young Senator-elect but the fact that he seemed to be completely alone. I am of that generation that still gets nervous when popular politicians can be targets of hatred and violence. In 1968 I had watched Bobby Kennedy’s California primary victory speech on TV. Seconds later he was assassinated.
The handsome Senator-elect and I exchanged a couple of words, then Harvey arrived, and I think we were both afraid to leave him alone as if we’d be rude walking away from a local hero! It felt good just standing next to him.
What I remember so well about that brief encounter was the poise and confidence he displayed. I left that evening with the thought that indeed the new Senator not only had tremendous charisma but I had a sense that he would go on to do bigger and better things.
I’ve told this story to friends many times, and even last year when he began to campaign for the world’s toughest job, I somehow believed he had the right stuff and would somehow make it.
On Tuesday he’ll be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, and I’m excited. Here’s a toast to him, wishing him – and all of us – the very best.
Michael Myette — Sacramento, CA USA — January 19, 2009 2:14pm ET
Dennis D Bishop — Shelby Twp., MI, USA — January 19, 2009 3:48pm ET
Jamie Sherman — Sacramento — January 19, 2009 7:14pm ET
Dr Samuel Goldman — Bedford, New Hampshire — January 19, 2009 9:40pm ET
Ted V Phillips — Chicago, IL — January 19, 2009 10:06pm ET
Loren Lingenfelter — Danville, CA — January 20, 2009 1:42pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — January 20, 2009 1:45pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — January 20, 2009 4:15pm ET
Eugene Kim — Houston, TX — January 20, 2009 7:56pm ET
Kevin Smith — Sunshine State — January 20, 2009 10:22pm ET
Charles J Stanton — Eugene, OR — January 20, 2009 11:51pm ET
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