Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Getting to know President Obama and Charlie Wilson

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So this is part 2 of my story about a formal farewell dinner last night for a popular ambassador and his wife, hosted by a very low-key individual in his home with a private museum in Forbes Park.

As it was an ultra-private dinner,  I couldn't take out my camera or my mobile to take even one photo last night.


Our host last night created a very special evening that included a tour of his private world-class museum. 

We were one large round table of about 20 persons, including the host and his family, the ambassador and his wife who were the guests of honor, and the friends of the ambassador that our host had invited on their behalf.

There were five ambassadors and their wives, the editor of one of the largest newspapers in the Philippines, and myself – and all of us were meeting our host for the first time.

The guest of honor had given the host our names, and we had been invited on their behalf.

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I was among the last to arrive.

When my car drove up to the main door, a butler appeared and said: “They’re in the museum.

He meant the private museum of the host on the grounds of his house.

Of course, it's pretty easy to just wake up one day and decide to have your own private museum. Everyone can curate stuff they like and stick it into a room – or in this case, an entire building in Forbes Park – and call it a private museum.

Especially in the Philippines.

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However, this museum was serious stuff.

I can’t go into the details because of the privacy issue, except to say that there were works of very famous persons in world history on the walls.

Our host last night has also donated part of his collection to a world-class museum somewhere in the world, and his donation was significant enough to merit an entire wing of this much-visited museum.

I can't print the name of the museum in this blog, but if I did, you would certainly know it.

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Dinner was in the main house, on a very large round table that enabled us to see everyone else.

It was quite a simple and rather old-fashioned set-up, actually, as far as formal entertaining goes.

But the food was superb – absolutely no compromises were made to create a simple but very impressive meal. I think each of us had a whole shark's fin in our soup, for instance.

As always, the seating had been decided in advance.

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So when we entered the dining room, we all checked our names on a seating chart. Except for the hosts, I knew all the guests so it didn’t matter to me who I was seated next to.

However I had the good fortune of being seated next to an ambassador I had just met before my Sri Lanka trip, at a very enjoyable sit-down dinner for eight persons in the same neighborhood.

I’d really enjoyed the conversation at this small dinner last month, where everyone had a good knowledge of Japan, Russia, China and France in common. It made for very interesting conversations.

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This time, we actually talked about President Obama, who is a good friend of his from way back -- long before he’d even thought about running for president.

This was fascinating to me.

I asked him: “What was President Obama like back then? Did you ever think he would one day become president of the United States?”

He replied: “I was very intrigued by him when I first met him as a young senator. So after meeting him, I shot him an email saying something like: “I’m in Chicago every so often. If you’re not too busy, I’d like to meet up again.”


Or something like that.

I can’t share too many details because of the sensitive nature of this topic. But my seatmate last night definitely saw potential in young Senator Obama from the outset, and he made the serendipitous choice to become good friends with him and support him in his career very early on, when President Obama was just another junior senator.

Consequently, he was with President Obama and his supporters for both presidential inaugurations.

More on our interesting conversations last night in my next blog entry…including how my seatmate actually knew Charlie Wilson.

This is the very same Charlie Wilson who Tom Hanks portrayed in a movie that also starred Julia Roberts and Philip Hoffman some years back.

It really is a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife. Every single day.


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