Close Encounters with American Presidents

By Jeff Salter

Well, let me make clear that none of the presidents I’m about to mention ever had any recollection of our close encounters… as they were blissfully unaware that I was in their vicinity.  But I’ve nonetheless held on to these experiences as likely the closest I’ll ever get to the leader of our nation.

John F. Kennedy

Yes, I saw John Fitzgerald Kennedy in real life, when he visited New Orleans … likely sometime in late ’62 or early ’63.  I know school was in session because I had to miss a day of Junior High School.

It was just my mom and me and I’d made a little sign which said, “Welcome Kennedy.”  Our home was divided politically — my mom being conservative and my dad liberal, so she only went because of me.  I stayed out of politics at that age, but I was enamored with our new young president and even wrote the White House for an autographed photo of him. [I’m sure he didn’t actually sign it himself, but I had it framed and hanging on my wall for many years.  Wish I knew where it was now!]

Anyway JFK was up on a stage WAAAYYY over yonder and we were among the crowd of thousands.  Did I see him?  Yes.  He was a tiny speck in the distance.  Did he spot me or my sign?  Uh, no… probably not.

George H.W. Bush

He was only Reagan’s vice president when I saw G.H.W. Bush outside the courthouse in downtown Shreveport LA, shortly before he was elected to the top office.  We were fairly close — at times, I was probably no more than 50-60 feet away.

But I got really distracted watching all the Secret Service guys.  It’s weird how I was magnetically drawn to the proximity of one (who was probably muttering to himself, “wish this geeky librarian would get out of my perimeter”), but I was fascinated.  Then I remembered that scene in Taxi Driver where Robert DeNiro starts talking to the SS guy, and I moved away.  I didn’t want him to think I was THAT creepy.  Ha.

William J. Clinton

No longer recall when this occurred during Bill Clinton’s eight years in office, but he came to Shreveport at least once.  He stayed at the Remington Suites luxury hotel in downtown, just about 1.5 blocks from the library where I worked.  My normal route to work was to drive in front of that facility, but on that morning it was blocked off, so I had to drive around the other side. Did I see Bill?  No.  Did he know I was there?  Nope.  But he was probably eating breakfast about a block and a half away from me, as I sat in my office around 7 a.m. that day.

George W. Bush

This final close encounter was not very close in one sense, but it was quite dramatic in many ways.  On that terrible day of Sept. 11, 2001 – a couple of hours after planes crashed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in NYC’s, the Pentagon in Washington DC, and a field in Pennsylvania – there was a loud roar of a large airliner over downtown in what was not a normal flight path.  Hardly anybody realized it then – and it wasn’t really discussed publicly until the President had already departed – but Air Force One was bringing Bush to the HQ of Strategic Air Command at Barksdale AFB, in Bossier City … just across the river from where I worked in Shreveport.  While the command and control structure was being worked out and experts were assessing the extent of those terrorist attacks, the leftover Cold War protocol required Bush to be in a place where he could be protected and where he could immediately order retaliatory military strikes, if the situation called for it.

That day was incredibly sobering in so many ways… and it was additionally “close to home” to know that the President was scarcely two miles away and wired into all the awesome might of the American military of that time.

Question

So those are my close encounters with four American Presidents.  Which world leaders have YOU gotten near … or even MET?

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About jeff7salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Twelve completed novels and five completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015, "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015, "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015, "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014, "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014, "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014, "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014, "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013, "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013, "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013, "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012, "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012. Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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17 Responses to Close Encounters with American Presidents

  1. jbrayweber says:

    I’ve never met a president. But Bush Sr. lives in Houston. Both he and Barbara are often out and about. Less now in their older age. Regardless, they are well-loved by our community. They love Astros baseball (huge fans, in fact) and go to most home games. They have seats right behind home plate. Since I’ve been to an Astros game, I was in the stadium at the same time as George and Barbara. I wasn’t that far from them – about 3 rows up, but closer to 3rd base. 🙂

    Great post, Jeff.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Great to see you here, Jenn.
      I’m very fond of the senior Bush couple also.
      It’s a shame to see how much they’ve aged, though. I remember when he went skydiving at age 75. As I recall it was his first parachute jump since he bailed out of his plane in the Pacific during WW2.

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  2. Joselyn says:

    I’ve never met a president or any head of state. The closest I’ve been is when my dad worked with Gerald Ford.before he was president and before I was born.

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  3. Micki Gibson says:

    I must have been super tired when I did my blog post because I’d totally forgotten about my encounters with the Bush grandchildren. My first teaching job was at a private school in Miami where then-president George H. W. Bush’s grandson, George P. (Jeb’s son), attended. Before I was hired on, I’d heard about how the Secret Service would stand outside his classes until George P. nixed it. He was a freshman and HATED the attention. So the SS guys were relegated to hanging out in the teacher parking lot. (I found out about this because as a twenty-something blonde in Miami, I complained to my colleagues about these creepy dudes who sat in a car and seemed to watch me very closely. Whooops! My bad.) Later, George P’s sister approached me about math tutoring. As far as meeting Dad (later FL governor), Uncle (43rd President), or Grandpa (41st President), it never happened.

    My only other encounters with any presidents are the few times I have visited the Hall of Presidents at Disney World. The hubby had wanted to “stop by” Mount Rushmore on our cross-country move, but he was outvoted and the Denver route won out. Maybe next time.

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  4. You’ll see the closest I have come tomorrow,People.

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  5. Before Gerald Ford was president, he was a congressman – OUR congressman. Sometime in the 1960s my grandmother decided to get her US citizenship. She filled out the necessary forms and began studying for the test on American government. And then someone discovered that she was here on an expired visa! She’d arrived from Japan in the 1920s with her husband. He died, she stayed and eventually married my grandpa and raised a family. She was totally unaware that she was here illegally. Of course, the wheels started turning in whatever office is in charge of deporting little 70-year-old women who’ve never been caught jaywalking or picking someone else’s flowers. The people at her church petitioned Ford, who promptly drew up a special bill granting Grandma immunity, and allowing her to become a citizen. Since then, our family has always had a soft spot for him and his family.

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    • jeff7salter says:

      I love knowing that someone with position and power stopped to help someone without either … and gained nothing from it but gratitude of the family. thanks for sharing that story. Ford must have been a very good congressman and compassionate person.

      Like

  6. Iris B says:

    No wonder you chose the subject, Jeff! What a great list, esp JFK!
    sorry – haven’t seen/met any of the US presidents … I think Bush came to our town when i was already here or lived in England … he didnt leave behind a happy crowd though (from what I’ve heard!)

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  7. DogsMom says:

    I know that when I hear on the news that political leaders, or even candidates, are coming to a city near me Imake plans to NOT be in the city or driving on those roadways that day.
    I do remember where I was on the days that Kennedy was assassinated and Nixon resigned.
    My brush with fame and “powerful people” has more to do with actors involved in their other pursuits, mainly autoracing.
    Some have had grand dreams of becoming president but their lifestyles (and mental workings) would have had to take a different path.

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  8. pjharjo says:

    You’ve had lots of “close encounters” compared to most people, Jeff. It’s incredibly scary thinking Bush was wired into” the military’s might and so close to the world’s decimation in 2011. Just sayin’

    Janette

    Like

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