A few days later the school sent the follow-up invitation, naming the dignitary. Ooh, it was a good one. I confirmed the RSVP for Bethy and me so fast I got keyboard whiplash.
Yesterday was the day, and during the drive out, I had a serious discussion with Bethy about how there are bad people in the world who want to hurt good people. I told her that if I said to get down or run that that's what she must do, immediately, no matter what was happening. You hate to do that to a 7 year old, but she seemed to take it in stride.
Bethy, in her little school uniform, and I arrived 2 hours before the speech was to begin. The bomb-sniffing dog and handler were just finishing checking the building, Bethy's old school out in the desert which I imagine, is a comparably easy location to secure.
She and I happily accepted American and UAE flags to wave, and went through a line of student greeters, gravely nodding or smiling as we walked the specially laid-out red carpeting. What we didn't go through, surprisingly, were any sort of metal detectors or security giving us the once over pat down.
We were being filmed, of course, and there were undoubtedly trained persons scanning each face as we entered, but as with most security in the UAE, it was subtle and discrete.
Once in the auditorium we scored prime spots, the best available for commoners and riff-raff like ourselves, behind where the dignitaries and US Consulate members had their roped off reserved seating.
The two hours of waiting turned into three in the auditorium which quickly became standing room only, no surprise on either count. People complained, but what what did they expect? VIPs get held up by everyone wanting to press the flesh and get photos taken and gawk.
I was a super awesome cool Mom and brought our portable DVD player for Bethy which even the people behind us ended up watching. This is the sort of situation that makes me wonder why more people don't pack a book in their purse or back pocket? Waiting can be a golden opportunity to relax.
Yes, smugly, I had brought a book too, and had friends to chat with while we waited. Sometimes I manage to plan and it works. True story.
Finally, the dignitary arrived, but first had to be taken on a tour of the school. Vaguely unruly behavior from the crowd at that announcement, but they calmed down once the momentary mob mentality ran out of steam.
Then, finally, the moment we'd been waiting for. The third tallest man ever to take the office of President of the United States, with his easy presence and the brilliantly white hair that brings to mind a Bald Eagle, entered the room to a roar of approval as the audience lept to its feet.
Former President Bill Clinton. That charismatic scallywag of a man, who spends his energies, as he puts it, "a private citizen working for the public good." He is a force to be reckoned with.
After verses from the Qu'ran and the UAE national anthem, the students from DAA presented him with a check for 100,000 AED to aid the people of Haiti, in addition to the 200,000 AED already raised by the school for Haitian victims. (nearly $82,000.) Let's just say they didn't do it with a bake sale.
At that point I should have realised that my idea that President Clinton would be giving an upbeat little speech to the kids was a dumb one. President Clinton, a savvy operator, in Dubai, with an audience of wealthy parents.
Duh. There would be no feel-good follow your dreams message here. This was literally a golden opportunity to educate movers and shakers, present and future, about how Clinton sees the world with all its joys and problems and how he believes those problems should be approached.
Alrighty then. I was all ears.
Cliff Notes version: He feels that inequality, instability, and unsustainable energy production are the three areas of life today that need to be addressed, and urged us to filter how we feel and act concerning issues through whether a idea will build up the positive and reduce the negative effects of inequality.
In front of the strobe lights flashing, cameras whirring, Clinton asserted that the leaders of the 21st century will be those who can say how we will solve problems. Not who, not how much it will cost, but how to make it happen.
Great speech. No notes, just him and his powerful charm and intellect. This having been said, I can't tell you how glad I was to have brought the DVD player for Bethy so she could zone out to Disney. I think there might have been some adults who might have preferred that too. Personally, I enjoyed it, and resolved to get around to reading his books.
Then it was over, he thanked us, we cheered, and he was whisked away, we having to remain in the auditorium until he left the building for his next engagement.
Say what you like about the Clintons, they are one hard working family.
For us, well, we left the kids with a sitter and went out for for a leisurely dinner with the same friends who'd been there to see the Prez. Not a bad way to end the day.
One thing President Clinton said to us, which I loved, was this: Devote time to good things, not just to preventing bad things from happening.
I raise my pizza to the man.
For those interested in the politics -and Clinton pulled no punches yesterday- here is a link to the National newspaper. They did a good job of covering his speech. http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100410/FOREIGN/100409719/1140