When Bill Clinton became President (or maybe even earlier), his staff got in the habit of identifying people as "F.O.B." for "Friends of Bill." This designation is quite different from V.I.P., as Bill Clinton has a genuine love of people quite separate from their status, politically or economically.
The former President and I are old friends. The last 12 months we have seen more of each other than has been the case in a number of years. We had a nice visit last night at the Ottawa annual Negev Dinner, twice in July in Nova Scotia and he accepted my invitation to speak at the Montreal Conference, the United Nations climate negotiations in Montreal last December.
I first met Bill Clinton in the summer of 1971 when he came to our house in Bloomfield, Connecticut to meet with my mother. He came as a representative of the emerging "McGovern for President" campaign to ask my mother to be the treasurer for the Connecticut campaign. My mother eventually was named to "Nixon's enemies List" for her phenomenal success is raising funds for candidates who opposed the war in Vietnam. At that point, Bill Clinton was a student at Yale Law School, as was Hillary. We worked closely together and he was a frequent dinner guest at our house. My mother adored him and he often commented she was as sure of his success as his own mother. Once he said, "You're like my mother. You think I'm going to be the next Clarence Darrow." And my mum said,"I think you'll be President." He laughed and conceded she was worse than his own mother!.
We lost touch with each other when my family moved to Canada. Our move involved significant financial reverses. I could not afford to return to university. I took over running the family business. We re-connected when a bus tour from Arkansas was in our restaurant. I was waitressing and recognized the accent. It was the people from that bus tour who told me my old friend was now Governor of Arkansas. The bus driver ran into Bill in Little Rock and told him about finding his friends on the Cabot Trail. Next time the bus came through, the driver brought gifts and a letter from Bill.
We never lost touch again. I have never ceased to be amazed at the time he takes and the thoughtfulness of his friendship. As Cape Bretoners of no influence or means, we could do nothing for him politically. His love and friendship were genuine.
He is very supportive of me first running to be Green Party leader and now as leader. Last night he wished me well in the by-election and told me how much he loved the New York Times profile on me.
His speech was amazing - both because he was exhausted after staying up till 5 AM celebrating Hillary's solid victory in New York and the shift to Democratically controlled House and Senate, and because he is increasingly speaking in the language I so want to bring to Canadian politics. Bill Clinton is now an apostle for setting higher goals and for a dialogue rooted in respect.
His central metaphor was that advanced genetics now tells us all human beings have 99.9% the same genetic material. He challenged his audience at the annual Negev Dinner in Ottawa (the fund raiser for the Jewish National Fund) to stop organizing our lives around that one tenth of one per cent that makes us different.
Back in London, I attended the debate for the mayoralty race. Not much evidence of attending to the 99.9%... a lot of attention to that one tenth of one per cent. I hope I can keep my focus on higher things and our common humanity in my all candidate meetings... yet to come!