Colorado is a battleground state, so we’ll see a lot of all the presidential candidates in the coming months. Wendy and I got word that Paul Ryan – Vice President on the Republican ticket with Mitt Romney – was flying into Colorado Springs yesterday morning. Just as we did with Sarah Palin in 2008, we got tickets and rose early to get good seats.
But this was different. I spent a lot of my childhood with Paul Ryan. We attended the 3rd-8th grade together at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Janesville, Wisconsin. My family moved from Janesville in the 9th grade, and I hadn’t kept up with Paul (whom I knew as P.D.). But let me tell you something: when a childhood friend becomes a favorite choice to run the free world, it’s a pretty great feeling!
I pulled out this old picture of our 8th grade basketball team – we nearly won State that year. Isn’t is a great picture? So glad I kept it all these years. I blew up an 8×10 and brought it to the rally to try to have it signed.
The rally sure was fun. Wendy and I were surrounded by neat people who thought my photo was the coolest thing next to Paul Ryan himself. Lots of talk about the old days as I held my picture and sharpie. Paul came to the stage and lit up the crowd. Clapping, cheering, poster waving…the works. The speech Paul gave was very similar to his RNC speech (you can watch it here). And then the handshaking and photo-signing began.
Now, I’m a fairly outgoing guy, but I had a subtle hesitation. Would he remember me? I mean, it had been over 25 years. I may know him, but I’m just a little book publisher serving a niche market of homeschoolers. I remember Paul as the smartest kid in the class, but perhaps I would just get a blank stare and a “I have no idea who you are” kind of look. I had the picture as backup to jog his memory.
This is how it played out. Paul was slowly working his way down the crowd. These political rallies are a sight to see. Shaking hands, posing for pictures, signing posters. Security guards surrounded him as he made his way down the wall of people, me toward the end. Paul had his picture taken with a nice hispanic lady I had just met. He put out his hand to shake the next – mine – and I waited to make eye contact. He looked me in the eye.
“Jeub!” he yelled. He used my last name, what everyone at St. Mary’s called me. Hardly anyone called me Chris back then. I nodded, “Yeah, it’s me! It’s great to see you PD!” Hardly anyone called him Paul back in elementary school.
We embraced and laughed like old friends. “Thank you so much for coming out here,” he said. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” I returned. For a moment, it was like the 3000 people around us disappeared. We knew our time was short, but we started talking as if we ran into each other at the hardware store or something. He asked, “You sell educational materials, don’t you?” You bet I do, I publish books for academic debaters nationwide.
This revealed something: he had kept up with me and my life. From a distance. He has been way more in the public eye, me being more in the marketplace. I suppose he had come across web clips of me, just like I had with him over the years. We chatted for a short time more – can’t really remember what else we chatted about – but it was good. I can’t speak for Paul, but at the moment I wished he weren’t running for Vice President of the United States. Then we’d be able to catch a bite to eat and really catch up.
Paul said, “It’s really great to see you, Jeub.”
“It’s great to see you, too, P.D. I’m rootin’ for you, my friend!”
And off Paul went. My new friends around me were just as giddy as I was. Several took pictures of the event, so we exchanged emails and they sent them to me. I posted them on my Facebook page.
On the way out, one guy came up to me and asked, “So, you really knew Paul Ryan as a kid?”
He followed with a good question. “So he’s the real deal, right?”
“You bet he is,” I said. “Paul Ryan is the real deal.”