My Run-in with Senator Kennedy

35373083There have been thoughtful tributes to Senator Ted Kennedy since his passing on Tuesday night. He was a powerful force, for sure. Over the years in DC, I saw Senator Kennedy in the halls on Capitol Hill and at events at the White House. However, I thought I’d share my very first encounter the “liberal lion.”

During the summer before my senior year of college in 1994, I served as an intern in Senator Chuck Grassley’s office in Washington. It was my first experience with politics and government and I was excited to be a part of it all. I was the intern for the Grassley press office and one of my daily duties was to compile the news clips from all of Senator Grassley’s offices around the state. Newspapers weren’t online at that time, so each day the Grassley staffers in the state would fax photocopies of important news stories from the major Iowa dailies to the Washington office. I compiled and organized the clips by subject and delivered them to Senator Grassley wherever he was at the time – on the Senate floor for a vote, in his Capitol office, at a committee hearing, etc.

That summer, President Clinton nominated Stephen Breyer to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Being the press intern had its advantages, as I was able to go into the committee rooms to deliver the clips and catch a glimpse of the hearings. The confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is an exciting thing and the opportunity to see it in person – if only for a few seconds – was thrilling to me.

Each day as the press intern, I tried to get the clips compiled and copied as soon as I could. Though, with the Breyer hearings taking place, I tried to get the clips together extra fast so Senator Grassley could read the coverage from Iowa and also so I could deliver them to him while he was attending the morning confirmation hearing sessions (he was a member of the Judiciary Committee).

The Breyer hearings took place in the large committee hearing room on the second floor of the Hart Senate Office Building. The Grassley office is on the first floor, so I didn’t have far to go to deliver the clips to Senator Grassley.

It was one of the opening days of the Breyer confirmation hearings and with a fresh clip packet in hand, I ran up the stairs, down the hallway overlooking the Hart atrium and darted around the corner toward the hearing room…right into Senator Kennedy’s chest. Yes, I ran square into the lion. Confused and startled, I apologized even before I realized the crash victim was Senator Kennedy. He was leaving the hearing. He was very polite. He was also substantial enough to not be very moved by the impact. I think his exact words were “that’s alright” and he kept on moving. Needless to say, I was pretty embarrassed and some reporters assembled near the hearing room door got a bit of a chuckle out of it.

From that point on, I delivered the clips at a more measured walking pace and endeavored to watch closely for traffic when rounding corners.

Rest in peace, Senator.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 at 11:39 PM and is filed under Politics. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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