Senator Barack Obama at the Westin in Seattle on June 1, 2007
June 1979 was the last time I hanged out with Barack Obama. We both graduated from Punahou School and went our separate ways. Fast forward to June 1, 2007, my wife and I drove from Tacoma, WA to the Westin Hotel in Seattle and heard Senator Obama speak live for the first time as a candidate for President of the United States.
The event was awe inspiring, almost surreal. Seeing Barack on television or on video does not even remotely compare to seeing him live and in person. The good senator empowered the crowd. He wants us to know that we are all “connected” and that it is our future, our destiny to change America. It felt more like a religious revival but the focus was not on religion, but how to fundamentally change the politics of America for the betterment of all.
After his speech, he came forward to meet and greet. When my turn came, I said: “I’m Dean, your high school classmate, and this is my wife Drena.”
Barack smiled and shook my wife’s hand again, since he had just greeted her a few seconds before.
And then he shook my hand for the first time in 28 years. I asked him half jokingly, “Is there a basketball gym at the White House?”
He looked at me seriously and said “You know there isn’t. We are going to have to do something about that.”
I then gave Barack our 5th grade home room picture to sign and he just marveled at the photo. He called Reggie(?), his young assistant, over, showed the picture to him and pointed to the 5th grade version of Barack and said, “That’s me!”
I had Barack talking about our younger days. I just could not resist dogging him: “So, the Jazz Man has become a Rock Star!” I knew he would find that a bit ironic.
At that moment, he looked at me and burst out laughing, forcing me to laugh at my own joke, too. Maybe he remembered that I would dog him like that on the basketball court. Or he realized I had endured one of his monologues about George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke or whichever jazz artist he was into that particular week. It felt good that two old friends were able to share a joke again after all these years.
We talked for a brief minute or two and then it was time for him to meet with Leila, another classmate, and the three of us took a picture together.
It was great meeting Barack again. It was even better to see that Senator Obama has the vision and the courage to change the world into something much better than what it is today.