Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Unscripted Moments...

Barack Obama

I generally avoid partisan politics on this blog, and since I often regret the votes that I've cast anyway, you probably won't catch me making political recommendations -- in the sense of whom or what to vote for or against.

But I do like to remark on the unscripted moments in a candidate's campaign that show a genuine, generous side. George W. Bush had one of those moments in Lebanon, Ohio during the 2004 campaign:
In a moment largely unnoticed by the throngs of people in Lebanon, waiting for autographs from the president of the United States, George W. Bush stopped to hold a teenager's head close to his heart.

Lynn Faulkner, his daughter, Ashley, and their neighbor, Linda Prince, eagerly waited to shake the president's hand Tuesday at the Golden Lamb Inn. He worked the line at a steady campaign pace, smiling, nodding and signing autographs until Prince spoke:

"This girl lost her mom in the World Trade Center on 9-11."

Bush stopped and turned back.

"He changed from being the leader of the free world to being a father, a husband and a man," Faulkner said. "He looked right at her and said, 'How are you doing?' He reached out with his hand and pulled her into his chest." (Kristina Goetz, "Bush pauses to comfort teen," The Cincinnati Enquirer, May 6, 2004)
The unscripted moment was captured in a photo snapped by Ashley's father and soon snapped up by the campaign, so the moment quickly got used in ways that were no longer unscripted. Otherwise, I would never have heard of it.

Yet, the authenticity of that moment never got lost, in my opinion. The photo, revealing that remarkably sad look on Bush's face, stuck in my mind . . . and perhaps in everybody's.

Well, Barack Obama has had one of those moments in Colo, Iowa during his current campaign, though without the photo. I heard about it anyway:

Obama was approached by a woman, her eyes wet.

She spoke into his ear and began to weep, collapsing into his embrace. They stood like that for a full minute, Obama looking ashen, before she pulled away. She began crying again, and Obama pulled her in for another embrace.

The woman left, declining to give her name or recount their conversation. Obama said she told him what had happened to her 20-year-old son while serving in Iraq.

"Her son died," he said. He paused. "What can you say? This happens to me every single place I go."

The next day, at the rally in Colo, Obama described the encounter for the crowd.

The woman, he said, had asked if her son's death was the result of a mistake by the government.

"And I told her the service of our young men and women -- the duty they show this country -- that's never a mistake." (Adam Nagourney, "Barack Obama, in low-key mode, gains admirers," International Herald Tribune, April 8, 2007)
The moment was real, and Obama's response was exactly right, from the warm embrace to the words of comfort.

Of course, as with the unscripted moment of Bush embracing the little girl Ashley who had lost her mother in the World Trade Center, this unscripted moment of Obama embracing a mother who has lost her son in Iraq quickly got scripted.

That's what campaigns do.

But we know that. We're sophisticated enough to recognize the subsequent scripting but unsophisticated enough to react to the authentic, original moment.

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At 11:51 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

A nice story, Jeffery. Thanks for posting this.

At 12:58 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

What she said.

At 4:01 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, both of you'uns. Good to hear from each of you -- I've been so busy lately that I've mainly been posting entries and not getting around the internet much (which is why you haven't heard much from me other than here).

Jeffery Hodges

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