Seeing the President

It’s an election season, as everybody knows, and that offers a chance to reflect on the two times in my life that I’ve actually seen the president with my own eyes. Some people see the president more often than that, and others probably live their lives without ever seeing the president at all. As with most things, I’m content to be somewhere in between.

The first time I saw a sitting president was the summer of 1984, when I saw President Reagan at the Illinois State Fair. I took my cheap little disc camera and drove myself (a new thing since I had just turned 16) and drove myself to the state fairgrounds. Reagan was enormously popular at that time, and I probably would have voted for him if I had been old enough. But as the picture indicates, I was far, far away from the speaker’s podium. But it was still a thrill, seeing the nation’s leader with my own two eyes.

The second time I saw the president was in 1996, when I saw President Clinton in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had been to a couple of Clinton rallies during the 1992 election cycle (having switched over to the Democrats in college), but he wasn’t yet the president so it doesn’t count, for these purposes.

Since President Obama is from Chicago, I’ve seen military helicopters flying over my house many times. And last summer, I got a glimpse from my back porch of the greenish-blue helicopter that was taking him to his house on the South Side. But that doesn’t really count, either. Perhaps one day I’ll get to see him, during his second term in office (and I can’t realistically envision any other outcome for this year’s election).

I haven’t yet seen a president during the digital age, where a cellphone camera would be the method used to capture a photo. These were both physical prints that I can now retire, since they’ve been transferred into a hopefully more permanent medium. And perhaps the next time around they’ll actually be something interesting in the photo. Time will tell, as it always does.

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