Sidelines: Luck of the Irish (Norwegian)
It's one of those things you look back on and kick yourself. Like the fish that got away. This was the story I let go.
It was an overcast Saturday afternoon 25 years ago. I was working for a newspaper in Oregon and had just finished whatever it was I was doing. Instead of going home, I decided to pop over to Rockford and catch the St. Patrick's Day parade.
You probably can't tell it from my name, but I'm part Irish on my mother's side. In fact, I've always felt more allegiance to Ireland than I do towards Norway, where my father's ancestors are from. For some reason I can't really explain, whenever I see a movie set in the Emerald Isle, I feel a little tug like that's where I really belong.
By the luck of the Irish, I found a parking place about a block from where the participants in the parade were lining up. I was just standing there, minding my own business, when I noticed Lynn Martin nearby. At the time, Martin was the U.S. Congresswoman from my district.
Martin, being a good politician who always remembered a voter's face, especially when he was a local newspaper reporter who had never written anything bad about her, called out to me with a smile and a little wave.
A few feet behind her stood a tall, thin man neatly dressed in an expensive-looking suit and topcoat.
It took me a second to realize it was the vice president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, who had just announced he was running for the Republican nomination for president.
I'm sure there was a bevy of security guards nearby, but for the moment he was all by himself, causally going over a piece of paper in his hand.
Although he hadn't gotten elected yet, Mr. Bush was the first president I ever saw. I also saw Ronald Reagan give a speech at Dixon High School about two years after he left office and Barack Obama a few months after he had been elected to the U.S. Senate, when he gave a speech in the basement of the Sycamore library. Although he claimed he wasn't interested, you could tell from the tone of his address he was laying groundwork for a run at the presidency. I also saw Dan Quayle in his final year as vice president when he made a campaign stop in Oregon in 1992.
It wasn't until I was driving home that it dawned on stupid me I should have asked Lynn if I could, if nothing else, at least have taken a picture of her and Mr. Bush. Not only was she involved in his campaign finances, he would later appoint her secretary of labor. I probably could have gotten a short interview with him. Nothing in-depth, of course, but still a one-on-one interview with a future president of the United States, one I would never have forgotten.
Instead, all I got was this column.
Maybe, when it comes to luck, I am more Norwegian than Irish.