It is the eve of the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as 45th President of the United States. I have reason to have special interest in this event, and have been following the preliminaries all week. The biggest reason is that I had the opportunity to meet personally with then candidate Trump in September of last year and was very impressed with him.
The opportunity came about when then Republican Presidential Nominee Trump was a guest speaker at the 2016 Annual Conference of the National Guard Association of United States in Baltimore, Maryland. I served in the Air National Guard for almost thirty years and became a member of that Association during my years of service. The Association is a non-profit service corporation representing all of the officers—both serving and retired—of the Army and Air National Guard of the United States. Even after retiring, I have remained active with the Association, and have been its national treasurer for a number of years now. So, as an elected Association officer and member of its Executive Board, I was one of the people to officially welcome him to our conference and to assist him with any support he might need.
As he and his “official party” arrived backstage and met with us, I was immediately struck with his down-to-earth, non-pretentious manner, and the fact that he did not arrive with the huge crowd of staff and camp followers we have come to expect. I have had the pleasure of welcoming three Presidents and six or seven party nominees to our conferences (I told you I have been Treasurer for a number of years – like 14). In each of the previous experiences there were literally dozens of people in the “official party”. For Mr. Trump, it was him and, not counting Secret Service, two or three others.It also impressed me that he actually arrived early—not five minutes early—I mean half an hour early, and was more than willing to talk to those of us backstage until his appointed speaking time. He did not want us to adjust our time, and so he was content to just talk with those of us present until the current agenda item was completed. And talk he did. He wanted to meet every single person that he could see. Our welcoming party, the National Guard conference workers, the convention center employees setting up chairs, I mean everybody. And he did not seem to be in any hurry with anyone. I sensed his being willing to share his time with everyone who wanted to talk to him. Thus, I had the honor of spending about twenty minutes with the person destined to be elected the next President of the United States.
We talked about a variety of things, and he was open to any subject any of us wanted to talk about. He definitely did not come off as elitist or condescending, or any of the other images that are inferred by most of the news commentators (and late night talk show hosts for that matter). To me, he was obviously highly intelligent and very much in control of the issues of the day. He seemed to have an excellent memory and was always prepared to present facts to support his statements and views. He was very relaxed, while at the same time coming across with great self-confidence. It was easy to see why he has been so successful.
It soon became time for him to speak to the crowd of about 6,500 members and guests, and he spoke for over thirty minutes about his vision for the military in general and the National Guard specifically. He was in full command of the problems that we in the military believe exists in our national military policy, and he talked about changes that he would make, if elected. Let’s just say it was like tossing red meat to the lions. He was interrupted by applause, often standing ovations, more than a dozen times. Yet, at the conclusion of his speech and as he was departing backstage, he took his time telling many of us goodbye personally, and seeming like he had all the time in the world just for us.
I have to say that I was extremely impressed. Like so many of us I had some apprehension that I had formed from all of the reports that had aired about him being some kind of out of control egomaniac that could not possibility have the temperament to be our President. That is not the man that I had the pleasure of meeting. I hope that each of you will have the opportunity to talk to him one on one sometime in the future, and if you do, I would be most interested in hearing your own personal impression of this remarkable man.