That Time I Met Bill Clinton When I Was 21 Years Old #TheYearOf40

Estimated read time 5 min read

I spent many memorable moments in my twenties, a decade that was full of discovery, freedom, and access to things I never imagined possible. One of those moments happened in the summer of 1998 when I met Bill Clinton, who was vacationing with his family on Martha’s Vineyard. Yes, you guessed it: I also met Hillary and Chelsea Clinton that same night as the first family walked on Edgartown’s North Water street after having dinner at the popular David Ryan’s restaurant.

I met Bill Clinton on Martha's Vineyard.

The excitement, as you might imagine, didn’t start the moment I met Bill Clinton with his wife and daughter. Having the first family on the island had everyone giggling; at the time I didn’t really know the whole story and assumed they were all as star-struck as I was. Think about this: I was an exchange student on my second trip working for the summer on the island and just knowing that the president of the United States was a huge thing.

Little did I know that I was going to meet him up close and even shake his hand. Just the fact that I had seen him from afar inside one of the vehicles qualified me in my mind to say I met Bill Clinton. But, as it happens in magical places like Martha’s Vineyard, I was in for a surprise. Besides the celebrity factor of meeting the leader of the free world, the moment I met Bill Clinton opened the door for me to want to learn more about the United States, the Clinton’s and immerse myself a bit into American culture a politics.

Later I learned that when I met Bill Clinton he wasn’t simply on vacation, he was trying to weather the storm his admission that he had engaged in “an improper physical relationship” with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton was in the second year of his second term, and the political implications of his scandal were yet to be seen in the coming years. So, many were waiting to hear Clinton address the matter a second time while there, something that didn’t happen.

Not knowing all of that, what I saw was a beautiful family enjoying a magical vacation.

I met Bill Clinton on Martha's Vineyard.

I Met Bill Clinton And Took A 90’s Selfie…

The day I met Bill Clinton was a busy day of work for me. I was in the clothing store at the corner of North Water street, right in front the David Ryan’s restaurant. I noticed several men coming in and out of the store, looking around and leaving. That was unusual because usually more women used to go to that store. After I went home, the apartment on the second floor of the Murdick’s Fudge shop, my roommates started coming from their respective jobs.

One of them, I don’t remember which one, heard the voices of people on the street. Someone found out president Clinton was going to dinner at David Ryan’s. From our apartment, we had a front row seat [actually, a window] to the side window of the restaurant that was across the street. We all watched as he walked up the stairs, was greeted and then went to his table.

A while after that, I don’t remember how long they stayed at the restaurant but we could hear as more people gathered on the street. Of course, we did the same! The five of us, my childhood friend Kike, and our roommates, the Spaniards Eva, Noelia and Oscar. Minutes after being on the street, the crowd cheered as the Clinton family came down the stairs from their dinner.

I met Bill Clinton on Martha's Vineyard.

The president walked slowly, shaking hands and answering greetings while my friend Kike took pictures with his camera. I had my selfie moment, Kike took several pictures as I met Bill Clinton, shook his hand and looked amazed at Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. I felt like I was in a movie, I had the tale of a lifetime to tell my dad, family, and friends, and I had the pictures to prove it! … Or, so I thought. After the whole thing happened my friend Kike realized he had no film in his camera. He was even lucky enough to be on a picture in which Bill Clinton appears on the background.

Yes, I’m still friends with Kike. I have never forgotten him, though, lol. If any of you is young enough not to know this, that was our life before digital cameras and smartphones: take the pictures and hope for the best. In any case, like the saying goes nadie me quita lo bailado which means that no one can take away the experiences, selfie or not.

Meeting Bill Clinton in the most unsuspected way taught me that we all have the opportunity to experience great things and it’s all about the opportunities we create for ourselves, a lesson I want my kids to learn early in life, one that I didn’t really learn until recently, despite the amazing ride that has been my life. The time I met Bill Clinton was also a lesson about the importance of living in the moment because sometimes when we are in the middle of it, we are not appreciating it in its entirety, we are too close to the action to fully grasp it.

I met Bill Clinton on Martha's Vineyard.

A reminder to live in the moment and stay in the present. What cool memory you remember the most from when you were 21?


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