There was GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence, in the flesh, standing before a crowd of more than 100 people last Friday night in Lima. Pence, the governor of Indiana, was here to encourage voters to rally around him and the man leading the Republican ticket in the race for the White House: Donald J. Trump, the real estate tycoon and reality TV star from New York City.
I’ve never been to a presidential campaign rally before, not even when, during my senior year, President Ronald Reagan, seeking re-election in 1984, visited The Ohio State University. The rally was at St. Johns Arena, not too far from where I sat studying at Drake Union. Any closer, and he’d have been delivering his speech at my table.
Woody Hayes was no longer coaching Buckeyes football then, but Reagan mentioned him in his opening remarks. He also gave a shout-out to Gov. John Kasich, who was a Congressman at the time. The happy crowd chanted “Four more years!” and booed vigorously whenever Reagan mentioned his Democratic opponent, Walter Mondale.
I only know this because I looked up a transcript of the Oct. 24 event on the internet. As I said, I didn’t go. I couldn’t be bothered going to hear a speech from a man who was seeking our permission to become the leader of our nation. I had more important things to do, like learn my lines for my Advanced Acting class (I got an A-).
I didn’t care for Reagan, didn’t think much of Mondale, either, though his daring, history-making decision to choose a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, as his running mate had impressed me. I didn’t have much respect for politicians and their soon-to-be-proven-empty promises, and I figured I didn’t have to listen to what either Reagan or Mondale had to say.
That cynical and self-serving decision has bothered me, all these years later. I regret turning my back on President Reagan. I’m sorry I missed an opportunity to see a candidate in person — a sitting president, no less — and hear his vision for our future together as citizens of these United States.
So, there I was last Friday night, listening to Mike Pence, making good on my vow to witness and listen to the politicians who’ve taken the trouble to come talk to me. And there, standing next to me, were Amy and Aaron Brock, of St. Marys.
“I liked Trump from the beginning,” said Amy, 38. “I used to like his show.”
“I like the fact that he doesn’t back down,” said Aaron, 50. “He’s a voice for us. I think he’s gonna do the things he says he’s gonna do.”
They said they saw Trump speak in Cincinnati in July, and in Dayton in March.
“Cincinnati was better,” Amy said. “One of his campaign guys got us up in front, in the third row.”
The Brocks say they’ve seen Ron Paul speak at a campaign rally in Tampa. They attended a John McCain/Sarah Palin rally during the race for the White House in 2008. They are everything I haven’t been when it comes to presidential campaigns. They listen. They pay attention. They are engaged.
I respect them for that. I appreciate their commitment to our messy, noisy, electoral process, one that will get even messier, especially in swing state Ohio, in the next three months. Because it’s too easy to get annoyed and tune out the election. Or, even worse, to listen unthinkingly, to tune in long enough to catch the pithy, withering sound bite on the evening news and make decisions based on grade school-level games of verbal one-upmanship.
Because this is Ohio, I expect more politicians, Republicans and Democrats, to pass through Lima and northwestern Ohio in the coming weeks. I will be there, because I owe it to my country to show up and listen to both sides. I will be there because it’s an amends I’m making posthumously to Ronald Reagan. I’ll be there because cynicism is not healthy, for me or for my community.
I look forward to running into the Brocks again.
Reach Amy Eddings at 567-242-0379 or on Twitter, @lima_eddings.