Back in the summer of 1998, I was attending a continuing legal education seminar in Oxford, England. The two-week program had a built-in extended weekend break, so I decided to hop on the Eurostar train for a quick visit to Paris.
One of my first sightseeing stops was the Luxembourg Gardens, truly one of the most beautiful places on urban earth. I was so taken by my surroundings that I wanted to get a picture of me with some of the foliage in the background. I figured I’d ask someone to take my photo.
Given my, umm, distinctly limited command of French, I hoped to approach someone who spoke English. Well, it was my good fortune that I heard a gentleman talking to someone in English with a slight Midwestern drawl. I asked him if he would take my picture and he kindly agreed.
As he stood up and faced me, I realized that I was looking at Richard Gephardt, the well-known Member of Congress, then-House Minority Leader, and one-time Presidential candidate!
He quickly snapped my picture, I thanked him, and we went on our respective ways. (Alas, I cannot get my hands on the photo itself. It’s no doubt buried in a pile of other mementoes somewhere in my condo storage area.)
Here’s the backstory: That very week, President Clinton was facing a deposition about his affair with a former White House intern, and apparently a lot of leading Congressional Democrats smartly decided to get out of town to avoid the ensuing media frenzy. I’d say that Dick Gephardt made a good choice by going to Paris!
Well, I’ve always told myself that in the very unlikely event that I bumped into the good Congressman, I would share the story with him. It so happened that I got my chance last Wednesday.
I was in Washington D.C. for the annual awards banquet of Americans for Democratic Action, a political and policy advocacy group whose board I’ve served on for many years. At the pre-dinner reception, Dick Gephardt — now retired from Congress — put in a cameo appearance to say hello to the banquet attendees, and I waited for my chance to chat with him. He understandably didn’t recall taking the photo, but he definitely remembered being in Paris and the political circumstances of the time, and he got a kick out of my little story.
As I said, I don’t have the snapshot handy, so this photo of the Gardens from Wikipedia will have to do: