by Lauren Devoll
My senior year began with a two-week field trip. Instead of climbing aboard a bus with zoo tickets in hand, I boarded an airplane carrying my Republican National Convention credentials to Tampa Bay, Florida.
The day after arrival I triumphantly marched into orientation for The Washington Center’s Academic Seminar, a program that included lectures from esteemed political scholars, journalists, and public servants as well as classroom discussions and fieldwork at the Republican National Convention.
“Wow, everyone here is white,” I so eloquently thought as I waded through the crowd of fellow college students. Ironically, this humorously staunch observation tuned my eye to look beyond the faces and search for the deeper things.
Our keynote speaker for the academic portion of the program was former Congressman Mickey Edwards. His list of accolades built a wall of reverence that I finally felt bold enough to cross at our welcome reception. After carrying on a conversation that felt more like an interview to me, I asked him to dance when the band switched to a slower, jazzy melody. He judiciously declined, but I received his Facebook friend request later that evening. When he sent me a message complimenting my “crazy business card,” I saw the deeper thing. This man who built federal legislation for 16 years was just a person.
One evening I enjoyed a glass of wine at the hotel bar with a fellow student. The man who sat next to us chuckled as he overheard parts of our personal conversation. When I unknowingly extended the conversation to him, the former Governor of Nevada, we talked for twenty minutes about career, family, and faith. This state leader was just a person.
I traveled back to the hotel via trolley one afternoon. A single woman boarded and sat solemnly in front of me. Something prompted me to ask her how she was doing. “Not so good,” she sighed. “I just tripped at the trolley stop and fell on my face. I’m in pain.” We conversed no longer than three minutes, but after exiting she turned and gave me an encouraging wave. This lonely woman traveling to her night shift at the Florida Aquarium was just a person.
My first day working on the Convention grounds, I was placed as a welcome hostess to the delegates as they trickled into the Forum. From 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., I smiled through the humidity and received a variety of attitudes. Many appeared festively happy, but a few felt it their duty to reprimand me for inconvenient circumstances beyond my control. These men and women who passed my welcome, marching to their air-conditioned haven were just people.
Award-winning journalist Aaron Brown presented several fantastic lectures during the program. One day I noticed that he curiously had one hand tucked into the back of his pants as he conversed. I walked up beside him, mimicked his action and made some slightly snarky introductory remark that illuminated a thoughtful and fun conversation. Towards the end he embraced me like a father and kissed my forehead. This man who led the CNN morning broadcast on September 11, 2001 was just a person.
This experience taught me the power of perspective. I did not get the opportunity to meet Mitt Romney or his entourage, but I am fairly certain that after interacting with them I would have concluded similarly. Like the woman on the trolley, like the Congressman, like me, he too is just a person. Every path is lined with people, both commoners and champions. Life is merely a dare to treat them all as such.
From Veneratio, Winter 2012