Sen. John McCain’s visit to Livingston County in January 2008 was exciting. Later that year he would secure the Republican presidential nomination and unleash Sarah Palin on the world; on that day, however, he was a presidential hopeful on the campaign trail who showed my kid how small the world really is.
Hundreds of people — from local politicians to area residents to members of the national media — turned out to see McCain at Crystal Gardens. The place was packed, and the energy in the building was palpable.
On our way to the event, I prepped my kid, who was just 8 years old.
“John McCain’s a great man,” I told him as we drove to Crystal Gardens. “He’s a war hero. He’s a senator. He’s a maverick. And you might be in the same room as the next president of the United States. How cool is that?”
I told him how I thought the event would unfold, how I expected him to behave, and how he was to remain within eye-shot of his parents at all times.
At the time, as the managing editor of The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, I was there to work; however, my husband and son were there to see history and politics up close and personal. While they sat in the audience, I hung out at the press table with then-state Rep. Chris Ward, who was kind of like my political tour guide for the day, and Joe Klein, political columnist for Newsweek, author of “Primary Colors,” and a veteran of the campaign circuit. I have to admit being just a little star-struck.
The two-hour event was full of buzzy energy, and Will took it all in. McCain gave his stump speech, and then took a wide range of questions from the crowd. It was a spirited, respectful event that left me feeling good about politics in general and McCain in particular.
As people gathered for a chance to meet McCain, much to my amazement, my 8-year-old kid worked his way through the crowd so he could shake McCain’s hand and ask for his autograph. McCain charmingly obliged.
I didn’t vote for McCain when Election Day 2008 came around. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t long admired him. His military service is the stuff of patriotic legend, as was his consistent and admirable commitment to his principles. I will always be grateful, too, for the wonderful political example he set for a little boy on that day in January 2008.
RIP John McCain.