Twenty-six years ago today, a lot of people ... the number was hotly and endlessly contested ... gathered on the Mall in Washington D.C. to "be counted" for life. I was there at the Rally for Life 1990. Here's the C-SPAN archived footage, in which I strongly doubt that I appear. I was backstage, wearing an apron, a red STAFF t-shirt, a walkie-talkie and as close to 80's hair as I ever got. I was on the team that planned it. Tent rentals, mugs, pins, bumper stickers, meetings with Secret Service, Park Police, FBI background checks, arrangements for VIP pickup and transport, hotel accommodations, 1st aid stations, portapotties, the press pen, audio hook-ups, table rentals. Jacki, bless her dear Arkansas heart, and her massive Rally notebook. No sleep in more than 24 hours. "Water. Water. Water. Water." "Tell the truth! Tell the truth!" and a stonewalling press corps. All of this, before the internet, and before readily available bottled water. It boggles the mind.
It remains a hugely formative event in my life. Here are my two most iconic memories from that frenzied time: I got to drive around the grounds of the Washington Monument, from station to station, in a golf cart, after dark. I cannot express how cool this was.
And I was frisked by Dan Quayle's Secret Service agents. See, I discovered that you don't want to be running anywhere close to a Secret Service agent and their protectee (who was onstage talking at the time, I think), even when you were told to escort the audio guy to the press enclosure fast because he needed to set up the link-up to the White House for President George H. W. Bush's address to the crowd, which was scheduled just as soon as Dan Quayle finished his speech. You don't want to be running, or even walking fast and looking nervous about getting your guy to his place on time, because if you are, the big guys with shades and earpieces will be all around you and even in your pockets before you know what is happening. Actually, it wasn't bad; I was just startled and they must have decided I was 115 pounds of not-threatening pretty fast. And the audio guy, whoever he was, got through too.
It was being part of such a complex, massive event as this that taught me not to be afraid of big, complex challenges, and that if you are patient and organized enough they aren't quite so daunting. But no one is rushing to plan another Rally.