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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

From my Front Porch

Thursday, November 7, 2002

The President's Visit -- Chapter III: Meeting the Secret Service

Recently, when the president of the United States was in the area, I drove to Springfield to hear him speak.

Leaving before daylight, I still managed to run late. Thankfully, as a mother with eyes in the back of my head, I also have extraordinary peripheral vision and am quite adept at powdering my nose and applying mascara while simultaneously driving at interstate speeds.

Once in Springfield, I found the quiet early morning atmosphere energized by the excitement of the day. Interestingly, there were a lot of Secret Service types milling around, and rightly so, but I couldn't help but wonder if maybe a few over-eager Barney Fifes had dressed accordingly as a matter of self-importance.

Regardless, I was told to look for a special lapel pin that would identify agents of the secret service. I found it ironic that any such agent would wear something that basically says, "Hello, I am a secret member of a secret club," thereby, negating the concept of secrecy.

A serious looking gentleman whom I suspected was a legitimate member of the Secret Service was closely monitoring the press area. I didn't notice if he was wearing a pin, but otherwise he fit the profile, including wearing the prerequisite dark navy-blue/black jacket. Curious by nature, I was eager to make his acquaintance.

I approached him cautiously, politely asking, "Excuse me, sir. May I ask you a couple of questions?"

He looked me over for a second and matter-of-factly answered, "Yes, ma'am."

I hadn't really expected him to be agreeable so I asked the first question that popped into my head and blurted out (and I quote), "Are you real-deal Secret Service?"

He seemed relieved and smiled (a little), answering, "Yes, ma'am, I am."

Being from the South, I was taught at an early age that everybody knows somebody and that more than likely at least one particular somebody is someone you know, as well.

So, of course, I had to ask Mr. Real Deal if he knew my friend's son, the one who had grown up on the mission field in Central America and had joined the Secret Service after college. "I have a friend whose son is in the secret service," I said. "Can you tell me if you know him?"

"Sure, what's his name?" he asked.

It just goes to show that I was raised right, because Mr. Real Deal not only knew Scott, but had worked with him on several presidential details.

"Please tell Scott that a friend of his mama's said hello," I said as I took my place with the other reporters.

A short time later, President Bush arrived to give his speech. I clapped and cheered, not realizing until too late that I was probably breaking some sort of nonpartisan media protocol by my display of support. But I didn't care.

When the festivities were over and the president had left, I waited for the crowd to disperse before I made my way to the exit. While waiting, I looked for discarded memorabilia -- mementos of the day. As a basketball coach's wife I knew just where to find the best stuff and began walking up and down the seating area. Among the campaign literature, I found miniature American flags for each of my children, a ticket with the Presidential seal on it and enough pens and pencils to get through the rest of the school year. But the crème de la crème was a makeshift sign printed on a sheet of ordinary white paper and secured with duct tape to a seat in the section next to the stage where the president had made his speech.

On it was a picture of the White house beneath which were written these words: "Reserved for the White House Press Corps."

Picturing it proudly displayed in my office, I determined to save it from certain disposal.

I carefully removed the sign -- duct tape and all, put it in my bag and finally headed home.