Llani O’Connor and I were rabid Hillary Clinton fans during the 2008 Presidential Primary election. We exchanged did-you-hear-what-she-said exclamations all through the summer and fall of 2007 after she announced her candidacy.
This photo from August 7, 2007 shows us with sunny smiles, blouses opened to our bra-lines, red-faced, droopy-haired and sweaty at an outdoor Presidential Forum in Chicago’s Soldier Field. All seven Democratic candidates are on stage in the background: Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It was a full 15 months before the election, and Hillary was way ahead in the polls.
I had worked as Hillary’s advance person on a few trips when I was working in the Bill Clinton Administration in the 1990s and was completely starstruck by her brilliance, kindness and sense of humor. Llani and I were ecstatic to be voting in the Primary Election that would result in the first woman presidential candidate. We knew she was going to win.
I obtained three tickets to the Soldier Field event after shamelessly begging an old friend who was an aide to Senator Joe Biden. Our third companion, Ann, drove us there, dodging and weaving down South State Street to 31st, ignoring stop signs and red lights, crossing under South Lake Shore Drive then barreling back north 17 blocks to the south parking lot of Soldier Field. We recovered quickly from the tilt-a-whirl ride and rushed into the stadium onto the field to get to the closest seats possible.
The stage was set at the fifty-yard line. Long red,white and blue panels draped behind it, and dark blue curtains hung behind the panels, blocking the back and sides of the stage. Folding chairs filled up the rest of the field.
It was 95 degrees that day – so hot that the moderator, Keith Olbermann cracked that if the candidates didn’t behave he’d cut off their air conditioning. The stadium walls offered no shade and we thumbed our noses at the heat along with the other 15,000 people, all of us dancing around and singing songs for three hours waiting for the 90-minute event to start.
We were disappointed that little-known populist Dennis Kucinich received the most applause, but Hillary’s star power exploded next to the six men. We waited for the candidates to leave the stage before heading to the car for the treacherous ride home with Ann.
“Llani! Look! Hillary’s out in the audience shaking hands. Let’s go!” We plowed through hot bodies and upturned chairs to get as close to our hero as possible. Suddenly, Llani, in her baggy pink shorts, flimsy sandals and turquoise tank top climbed onto a folding chair and took off, hopping from one chair seat to another, camera in hand, shoulder bag swinging wildly and screaming at Hillary to look her way.
Traveling home the wrong way down one-way streets with Ann behind the wheel evoked little excitement after that.