I’ll do a wrap-up post on my time at WWDC, but I felt that I had to write about this first. On the way back to Vancouver from San Francisco, I had scheduled a shuttle, but at the last minute, canceled and decided to use BART again. It was one of those decisions that I’ll no doubt look back on and think, it’s a good thing, because otherwise I wouldn’t have had the experience that I had. Friday the 13th has always been lucky for me, and this June 13th was no exception.
After boarding the train at Civic Center, after 2 or 3 stops, 2 men in suits got on the train. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Navy blue suit, blue eyes and gray hair, a US Flag lapel… it was Howard Dean. Yes that Howard Dean, the former Governor of Vermont, front-runner candidate for President in 2004 (whose campaign I worked on) and currently, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. ‘I’m never going to have another chance like this,’ I said to myself. In a moment or two, I got up the nerve and introduced myself to him, telling him that I had worked on his campaign (He immediately said ‘Thank you’ for that) and that I was a great admirer of his. He was on his way to some meetings at hotels at the airport, and to avoid the traffic, had decided to take BART. I told him where we had moved (and why). He had many questions about Vancouver; he hadn’t visited the city for 40 years. He did mention, that he loved Canada, and often went to a family house in Nova Scotia, near Bras d’Or Lake (since Vermont is so close to the Canadian border). Pam and I had gone to that area for our honeymoon. He talked about how cosmopolitan a reputation that Vancouver has, and that he could absolutely understand our move here. He asked if we were going to get Canadian citizenship, and that obviously, being a techie, I would have had no problem getting landed immigrant status. We chatted about a number of subjects: the Primary, What President Barack Obama will do to help put the country back on the right track (and whether we’d return after that), even a bit about our land in Vermont (“You should hang on to that”, Dean said. “When we get out of this Real Estate slump, that’s going to be worth some serious money.”). We reminisced a bit about when I had last seen him on the campaign, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, when he spoke by the river, with boats with his banners floating back and forth behind him. When I commented on the flag pin on his lapel, he said that it was “to show the Republicans that they don’t own the flag”. He laughed when I suggested that perhaps the Democrats could have a slightly different (and maybe a more elegant) design for it.
To prove that this is not what it sounds like, a ‘tall tale’, I got his assistant to take a picture of the two of us, seated on the BART seat:
We parted as he went off to his meeting, and I headed to my check-in for the flight home, feeling as if I were in the air already. At the gate, I immediately called family all over North America to tell them of my good fortune and began this post.
My lasting impression of Dean is pretty much how I imagined him one-on-one. He seemed interested and charming, intelligent, a good listener and a smart businessman. He was very gracious, and seemed genuinely interested and engaged. In short, I was not disappointed.
I suspect that the average person has a shot at meeting and talking to, perhaps 1 or 2 famous people in their lifetime. You hope that those celebrities are people that you’d also like to meet and perhaps even someone who you admire. I’ve actually had more than my share of meetings with famous people in my life so far. I’ve met and even had some conversations with several composers, including Olivier Messiaen, Aaron Copland, Virgil Thompson, Ned Rorem, Elliott Carter, Steve Reich and Leonard Bernstein, playwright Edward Albee, the writers Isaac Asimov and William Gibson, and some brief moments where I shared a transit ride with Michael Dukakis and William Weld (It’s odd how I always meet the politicians when riding on mass transit) I’ve even met some luminaries in software and business, including John Sculley (the first CEO of Apple Computer while Steve Jobs was in exile) and Bill Atkinson, one of the more interesting figures in the history of computers (he invented 2 early pieces of software for the Mac, which became the first of 2 categories of software, MacPaint, which begot bitmap editors and HyperCard, which it may be argued, was a precursor to the World-wide Web and has been said to be the inspiration behind the concept of the Wiki). As Nearly-Canadians (and as I’ve noted in previous posts in this blog), Pam and I even shared a picnic table with actress Nancy Robertson (who plays Wanda on “Corner Gas”) and briefly met Roch Carrier, the author of The Hockey Sweater, a classic story, animated film and keystone of Canadian identity.
Nevertheless, it was great to finally be able to tell Howard Dean how much I had looked up to him. On June 13, 2008, without any warning, I got a chance to talk to one of my personal heroes, and I’m thrilled.