United States Senator Claire McCaskill was in town a few weeks ago. While she currently makes her permanent home in the St. Louis area she spent time in the Kansas City area in the ’80’s and ’90s. Presumably as a consistently upward progressing professional she maintains several relationships in KC. When I learned she was scheduled to make a public appearance I took a look at schedules and decided we could make it.
Anxiously I emailed the organizer as they sounded quite certain the venue may be stretched to accommodate attendees. While reservations were not required—it was suggested they be notified so we did.
I had never been to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library–a travesty considering it’s less than a 25 minute drive. We pulled into the parking lot around thirty minutes prior to Sen. McCaskill’s appearance. She was in town as part of a book tour–Plenty Ladylike–presumably planning to ramp up sales amongst friends to help show high numbers to her publisher. Simply a presumption. Independence, Missouri is not particularly a gem in the greater Kansas City MSA. In fact; many parts of it are rather tattered looking. Back in the days of Truman and the influence of the Pendergast Machine I’d suspect it was a bustling metropolitan area; not so much anymore. Over one of the many hills of Independence Avenue the library complex appears almost out of place. A few acres of green grass and parking asphalt were a welcome break from the miles of strip malls and dated homes. Dated; not charming, classic, historic or historical; just dated.
We pulled into the nearly empty lot and immediately shifted our thinking from a dynamic, packed crowd of groupies, fans and political wonks to our upcoming time with a handful of retirees, close friends staff. We were spot on.
President Truman’s Library retains an aura of prestige in spite of its age and relatively pedestrian locale. Timeless stone with crisp lines, plenty of green-space including a sizable courtyard that also serves as a gravesite. Naturally the gift shop (read as steady revenue stream) directly inside. Perhaps more on the library and museum at a later time. For now it was down the hall to the mid-sized theater room–perhaps room for 250. In line with our thinking as we pulled into the parking lot we stood out amongst the blue-hairs, personal friends and staffers. All couple-of-hands-full of them. Twenty-five, thirty tops. Disappointing to say the least. Were I in the position of Sen. McCaskill’s assistant I’d have been preparing myself for a tongue lashing. Surely a sitting United States Senator making an appearance in a metropolitan area of nearly 2.4 million one could expect more than a couple dozen attendees on a pleasant Fall weekend afternoon.
Seats aplenty we chose the middle of about the fourth row back. Perfect. Details of the presentation can largely be obtained from her book, Plenty Ladylike. In fact our host, the library events director stated as much. He pulled questions and topics directly from the publication–after all this was essentially a book tour–and the Senator responded largely in line with the book. Clearly she has friends, enemies and frenemies; per the book she makes and leaves an impression. Seems one would know how one stands with her after an interaction. I liked her–she’s tough, opinionated and principled. All of which earned through a lifetime of political wars and a fairly well-off upbringing.
I was saddened for our time to come to a close. Being suckers for this sort of thing of course we wanted a signed copy of her book. I’m not much for standing in line…..short as it may have been…..so I took an abbreviated tour of the library as Ames jumped in line. True to form the Senator was short on small-talk; it was all business and quickly conducted at that. Worth the time? Absolutely. It’s added to my list of similar events I’ll take with me.