On Wednesday I flew home from Phoenix after two days of tax group meetings with my firm. I was sitting at the gate waiting for my flight, when I looked up and to my surprise saw Rod Blagojevich, the Governor of the State of Illinois, who was going to be on the same flight. (I once shared a flight with Jesse Jackson when I was returning from D.C. to Chicago.) He is having a lot of political trouble in the state (when on board a businessman in my row muttered to no one in particular his displeasure with having to share a plane with that @%^##), but from his interactions with the people in the boarding area I could see why he has been a successful politician. He was glib, extremely friendly, very charming, chatting people up as if they were old, dear friends (and it didn’t hurt that he had his young daughter with him).
I was reminded of that when I read of President Monson’s very public appearance front and center at a recent Utah Jazz game. I also thought back on President Hinckley’s attendance at a private screening of Amazing Grace at one of Larry Miller’s theaters. In that latter case I was fascinated by how sequestered a church president is and how difficult that must be. So I was (pleasantly) surprised and a little shocked to read of President Monson sitting on the third row cheering on his Jazz.
And why not? It wasn’t that long ago (well, before my time, it is true) that you could stop the prophet on the street and have a chat with him or go to see him at his office without an appointment. Now the public almost never sees him in person outside of very controlled settings, and that’s a shame. But maybe that is going to change a little bit under the new administration.
Was his appearance politically calculated? He sounds a lot like Governor Blagojevich at the airport, waving, smiling for the cameras, even popping in the huddle in the third quarter to urge on Jerry Sloan and the players (surprising Jerry Sloan in a huddle is probably not a very smart thing to do, BTW, but it turned out ok). He often attends Jazz games, but usually in Jon Huntsman’s private box, so people don’t see him and don’t know he’s there. Was he trying to show that he’s still vigorous, a normal guy, a man of the people?
Perhaps. But I don’t really care. I simply love the fact that he went out in public and enjoyed a basketball game, and put himself out there to mingle with the people. Not just Mormons, but people.