Face-to-Face

Mood: thoughtful and quiet…

Weather: sunny blue skies and frigid North winds…

Reading: Discourses on Livy by Niccol Machiavelli

Listening To: the Sea & the Bells by Rachel`s

Today, as part of a select delegation of Honor students and faculty from the school where I teach, I traversed to-and-fro the greater Annapolis/DC Metro area… at one point meeting Senator John McCain (R – Arizona) and at another point meeting Senator Barack Obama (D – Illinois).

Sen. McCain was far shorter than I had pictured him, a man of small but powerful frame. He gives every appearance of having a seething energy underneath a reserved (if rather curt) demeanor. He looks every bit of his advanced age (72 by November), but also puts forth a dynamic and dogged inner resolve.

I was introduced to him by our liaison, and the nodded politely at me with a quick vigorous handshake (broad palms and thick stubby fingers). His eyes moved quickly over and past us, offering only a cursory greeting and a cheerful: “Thanks for coming out!” before moving on to the next of his guests.

After a brief mid-morning snack, we were transported to where Sen. Obama was meeting well-wishers and dignitaries. I recognized a member of my church (who is also Speaker of the “State House”) and went over to greet him, when I realized he was talking with the candidate himself.

Sen. Obama was much taller than I had surmised in the various photos and footage I have seen over the recent election season, almost as tall as I. He`s quite slender, but also broad shouldered – with the sort of “gaunt and angular” build that Ayn Rand often belabored.

We were introduced and my occupation was described, upon which Obama eagerly latched onto what he described as: “the magnitude of what you do.”

“You are on the front lines,” he said, still clasping my hand as if to keep me from fleeing: “a society is often marked by how it cares for its most vulnerable,” he said, quoting Dostoevsky without even a hint of irony.

Sensing an easy opening for a rather sharp riposte, I let it go with only a wry smiling: “Indeed.”

“Never let anyone tell you that what you do is not of the utmost importance,” he continued, his voice low and intense, still gripping my hand in earnest.

“You either,” I quipped, which prompted a hearty laugh from all of us in the immediate vicinity… including the distinguished gentleman from Illinois.

Standing face-to-face with Barack Obama, I was able to gauge his oft-reported allure and charisma at close range. Sincerity and warmth just radiates from him, and you cannot help but feel like he is hanging on your every word.

While I have sensed glimmers and shadows of this in meeting various other politicians (including presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush), there is something almost otherworldly ethereal about candidate Obama.

In meeting him, I truly wanted to see him in a harsh focus… to burn through the soft honey-coated lenses of the fawning sensationalist mass-media, to engage him in his person and see him face-to-face.

Even so, he presents himself very much as he is, and yet… there is far more nefarious cunning and oblique guile `neath such a sunny bearing and a winning smile.

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