Have you ever actually attended a Presidential State of the Union address - at the Capitol Building in Washington DC, that is? Not on television, now, but right in the chambers of the U.S. House of Representatives?
I did - one time - along with our son John, in what I believe was the first year of President Jimmy Carter’s term of office.
I attended the Convention of the National Religious Broadcasters in Washington DC every year from 1966, through 1990.
Each year I went, I tried to contact our 7th Ohio District Congressman, as well as one of our Senators from Ohio. Over those years, I didn’t make it every time, and with different members, but the year we attended the State of the Union address, Clarence J. Brown, Jr. (Bud) was our 7th District Representative in Congress.
When I visited his office this time, he said, “Would you like to sit in the audience when President Carter gives the State of the Union address?”
(It happened that year during the NRB Convention.)
“Absolutely”, I said. “Can you arrange that?”
“Of course”, he said.
“Could my son attend also?”
“Sure”, he said. “You and your son meet me in my office at (whatever time he suggested), and, together with CBS Reporter Ike Pappas, we’ll ride the Congressional subway over to the Capitol.”
(Bud’s office was, at that time, in the Longworth House Office building, across the street from the Capitol, toward the south side of it.)
Longworth Building, south of the Capitol.
(Double click on the picture, and you can see that designation on the "map".)
John and I were both thrilled. This MAY have been John’s first - of many - times to go to the NRB Convention, representing Moody Bible Institute there.
We arrived in Bud’s office, and he and Ike Pappas were already there. We were introduced, and chatted for a little while, until Mr. Brown indicated that we should “mount” the Subway. He gave us our tickets, and “away we went”.
I just now sent John a “First Draft” of this piece, and he replied, saying he was impressed that when we were sitting in Bud’s office, we all four watched a piece on TV that Ike Pappas had just done. He was sitting there with us while we watched it.
Arriving in the Capitol, we took an elevator to the top of the building, outside the Visitors’ Gallery. While waiting there, Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill walked through, preceded by what appeared to be a Congressional Page, saying, “Make way for the Speaker. Make way for the Speaker!”
We did, of course.
It seemed to us an interminable amount of time before anyone came to us, looking at our tickets, and starting to admit us to the Chambers. Our tickets indicated that we had “Step Seats”. “What are those?”, I wondered.
It turned out that where we sat was not in a “theater-type” seat, but rather, on one of the steps from the top, down to the spot where Rosalynn Carter and her entourage sat, in the Visitors’ Gallery. We were on President Carter’s left, as he faced the Chamber. Pretty high up, actually. No problem with seeing him, though.
I enjoyed the experience very much, as we “sat in on” a bit of history.
It just now comes to mind, that Congressman Brown introduced in Congress a bill for me one time - somehow concerning the affairs of Christian and Religious Broadcasters. Can’t remember the specific subject now, but my bill was introduced. (Never heard from it since!)
Just another moment in history.
Another year, I visited Senator William B. Saxbe, in his Senate Office Building. I knew Bill when he was in High School in Mechanicsburg. Also, when I sold “Maddex Radio & TV” to Joe Hinton, Bill wrote up the contract, copying it out of a law book he had on his shelf.
While in his office, Bill and I discussed various things, as well as how well WEEC was heard in Mechanicsburg. He could hear it well there.
While talking about visits to Washington DC, and the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, I’d like to brag that, in different years at the Convention - mostly while I was an Officer (Secretary) of the Association, I was able to see up close, speak to, and/or shake hands with Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush.
Someplace, we have pictures of me, with President Reagan and Vice President Bush. Another, with President Reagan at the podium, and me on the front row of the platform beside him.
With President Carter, the experience was unusual, to say the least. This was one of the years that I was an Officer in the Association.
It should be noted, that when Presidents spoke at the Conventions, the members, officers and crowd were in a roped off area, about 15 feet from the dais. Being an officer, I was right in the front row, just behind the “rope”.
Right after President Carter spoke, he stepped off the platform, and headed right for me, shaking my hand. Others too, of course, but I was the first.
Later, I saw a former co-worker of mine a few years back at Moody, and I walked up to her and said, “Do you want to shake my hand?”
She said, “You didn’t!”
“Oh yes I did!” I said.
“You lucky dog!”
Luck was what it was.
On the occasion of shaking the hands of President Reagan, and Vice President Bush, they were in a small side room, while each of us officers, and some “VIPs” in NRB - mostly noted Television speakers - walked in, and shook their hands, individually, while a Photographer took our pictures.
For several years at the Convention (which ran from Saturday into the next week), my two closest friends in NRB (Bob Ball and Brandt Gustavson) and I attended Church services at either the National Cathedral or the National Presbyterian Church. One year, Bob’s son came to the Convention with his dad, and he went with us. The next year after that, he told his dad when he left home, “Be sure to greet Mr. Gustavson and Mr. Maddex for me.”
Sadly, both of these friends are now in the Presence of the Lord, in Heaven. I STILL miss them both!
Some experiences you remember, and some you don’t. I’ve been amazed that in almost 10 months of reminiscing for this blog, I often can’t think of the right thing, but later - while doing or thinking of something else - it breaks in upon my mind.
Did you know that everything we have ever said, heard, or thought is STILL residing in our brains? That’s memory!
I’ve often said that my memory is not my problem - it’s perfect.
MY problem is RECALL.
Something else amazing: When I indicated on this blog that this was a NEW posting, the site informed me that this one is number 100 of the postings I have made here since last November.