On Presidents’ Day in 1995, I waited for the president in the Map Room of the East Wing of the White House.
Its mahogany walls lent an atmosphere of great dignity to the room, highlighted by a large painting of President William McKinley signing the treaty of peace in the Spanish-American War.
The president’s desk, in this upstairs room, filled much of the space with a leather couch and two wing chairs occupying the rest.
I was leafing through his library, chuckling at the Time-Life books on different countries that adorned his bookshelves.
“Is this how he learns foreign policy?” I wondered cynically.
My thoughts were interrupted as an ebullient president burst into the room still chuckling to himself.
“I just was with some young people and we had a great time,” he enthused.
“Then a reporter asked me: ‘On Presidents’ Day, if you could speak with your idol (John F. Kennedy) and ask him one question, what would it be?”
The president grinned mischievously.
“I want to say I would ask him, ‘How did you do it?
“‘Is there a closet or an entrance or a room or a staircase I don’t know about?'”
Clinton shook his head ruefully and said, dejectedly, “But I couldn’t, so I said I’d ask him what it was like to be president before people got alienated from their government.”
And his hunt for the room, the staircase, the closet or the entrance continued.
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