Saturday, June 29, 2013

The one where I meet Secretary of State John Kerry and we become best friends

So perhaps you have heard by now, one Mr. John F. Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States of America was in India.  If you haven't heard, you can read about it here, here, and here.

It was a short visit, as many of these often are, but Secretary Kerry took a short break from diplomacy to do a meet and greet with Embassy staff and families.

Last year, when then-Secretary Clinton came, the meet and greet was at 2:00 pm.  This time it was at 8:00 am.  Which means you need to be there and in the room by 7:30 am.  That's pretty early.  So early, in fact, I knew not to even bother to ask Mr. ATK.  But I personally never pass up the chance to meet a Secretary of State, much less one I voted for once upon a time.

After being stuck behind some kids, and well out of handshake range, I might add, at last year's meet and greet with Secretary Clinton, I was determined to get a prime location and a photographed handshake.  So as soon as security gave the all clear I was first in the room and scoped out some primo real estate--right in front of the stage.  I was sure to get a handshake from this spot, I thought.  Heck I could have reached out and shook his hand while he was on the stage.  That's how close I was.

Before the Secretary entered, kids and summer hires (college students working at the embassy over the summer) were pre-grouped because he was going to take a photo with each group.  I considered standing behind the kids, like I did last year, but since I had such prime real estate I thought I would stay put.  After all, I was guaranteed a great handshake photo by one of the many photographers that were around.

Remember this one? Classic ATK.

So anyways, Secretary Kerry enters--after a couple of warnings to "not push" but "calmly shake his hand and move out of the way so the next person can step up and shake his hand." Yes, even a room full of diplomats needs to be told not to push.

Basically, the Secretary greeted us, thanked us for our hard work, and proceeded to become the host of a State Department version of "Kids Say the Darnedest Things."  He asked all the kids to come on the stage with him and he talked some about how his parents were in the Foreign Service and he lived in post-WWII Berlin for a time. Then he started asking the kiddos questions, including:

Kerry (to a kid in the front row): Where are you from, young man?

Kid (one Mr. Zander Burnes): America!

So adorable and it elicited quite the laugh from the crowd! A picture of the interaction made the New York Times' India Ink blog.

Another one that was cute was:

Kerry (to a different kid): How many countries have you lived in?

Kid: Five! Including America!

He addressed the crowd some more, and was very affable and funny.  He thanked everyone for their service and he said something that has really stuck with me.  He said, "We work for peace."  I don't know. I really liked that.  We do work for peace and I am proud to be a part of that.

Anyways, after all that, Secretary Kerry got down to do his photos with the kids and summer hires.  It was handshake time and I was ready!

I think the plan the event organizers came up with was for the Secretary to take pictures with each group and then come down to the front and shake hands and greet folks as he made his way to the door to leave.

But that's not how John F. Kerry rolls. He flipped the script, y'all.  Some say he went rogue.  I prefer to recognize it for what it is--he's a wildcard!

After taking pictures, Secretary Kerry meandered through the crowd shaking hands, taking photos with people, and chatting.  Of course, he was now way behind me.  Everyone who had been in the back was suddenly in the new front row. I think this threw the photographers off as well, because they were down by me.  So they rushed to follow him and take pictures, but he didn't just walk straight through--he was moseying around shaking hands with as many people as he could.

So in the end I did get my handshake, but no picture of it.   Still it was a great experience and I did get a few pictures with Secretary which I will now share with you all.

This is the best picture I have.  It's the one where Ambassador Powell and Secretary Kerry photobombed my picture with my friends.  It's okay though I didn't mind. :)

The arrow is pointing at me. See how mine is the back of the head in front of all others? Primo location.

There I am again with the back of the Secretary's head.
There's part of my face with part of someone else's face and the Secretary and Ambassador.
*Author's note: Secretary Kerry and I did not actually become best friends. :(

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