Friday, 05 November 2010 00:00
Over the years I have had the privilege of having personal meetings with four Presidents of the United States. This piece is not to promote any of them. It is to share with you some of those moments.
While I participated in the 1960 Presidential election on the staff of Richard Nixon, I really had limited contact with him at that time. Then, in 1964, I received a call from Mr. Nixon asking me if I could help him after the 1964 defeat of Barry Goldwater. For the next ten months, I traveled across the country with Mr. Nixon.
One of those trips was to Chicago. Mr. Nixon was a very shy person. For example on airplanes, I would be assigned the aisle seat. And as people boarded the plane, he would read a paper close to his face so no one could identify him. One morning, as we had breakfast in our room – no dining room meals as that would mean people would approach him – I started to pour the coffee. I was nervous and my hand was shaking. With no audience, he put his hand on mine and said, “I had better handle this.” He was a considerate person.
One of the most interesting meetings I attended with Mr. Nixon was at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. We were in a suite where former President Eisenhower was staying. At the meeting were Eisenhower, Nixon, Goldwater and me. After the meeting which covered whether Goldwater would be a team player after losing the election, Eisenhower asked me to go down to the lobby and listen to Goldwater’s press remarks.
After the press conference, I went back up to the suite and reported to Eisenhower and Nixon. It was a moment I will never forget.
While at Avon Products, I was asked to serve on the President’s Committee on Women’s Business Ownership. President Reagan invited the Committee for a luncheon in the Cabinet Room of the White House. President Reagan started the meeting saying that we could all talk with food in our mouths to make sure all the business could be covered. That got a laugh from all of us and put us at ease.
My next memorable meeting with President Reagan was during my 1988 campaign for the United States Senate. I spent over one hour with him. Part of the time was spent with me being able to ask him any questions on my mind. The balance of the time was with him while cameras were running to create a TV commercial. By the way that commercial can be seen on my web site – www.bobmcmillan.net.
Also, during the 1988 campaign, I had the chance to make an appearance with Presidential Candidate George H.W. Bush in October at Christ the King Church in Queens. After his remarks, he reached out to me and pulled me up to the podium. With a wink of his eye, he told me that we would both be on national TV that evening. With 50 or more cameras at the event, he was absolutely right. It was quite an experience.
After the campaign was over, I turned down offers from the Bush Administration for full time positions. I needed to go back to work. Then, I was offered a position as a Director on the Board of the Panama Canal Commission. I accepted the appointment by President Bush and went on to have a wonderful five-year experience in Panama.
These personal experiences will, forever, be etched in my mind. As I look back, sometimes it is difficult for me to realize how privileged I have been.