I tend to steer clear of politics here because feelings can run high and I don’t want to stir up unneeded heat and controversy. I have strong opinions on some things and voice them occasionally but try not to couch them in political terms. However, when I do, I believe in being respectful to people on the other side of issues and to leaders in particular.
I did not vote for our current president and disagree with much of what he does. But when I heard he was coming to our area, I have to admit to being a little excited. It would be a historic moment: it’s not every day such a personage comes to our state. And then, even more amazing, I learned he was coming to my husband’s plant!
He was coming to highlight and announce manufacturing hubs that would bring together universities, manufacturers, and government agencies such as the one here in the Knoxville area where the University of TN, Oak Ridge National Labs, and Techmer PM worked together on their latest project, a 3D printed car.
To be perfectly honest, 3D printing baffles me, and making something the size of a car that way baffles me even further, but it’s pretty cool! You can find more about the president’s visit here, a transcript of his remarks here, and more about the car here.
This visit didn’t get much press because the president’s first visit that morning to a local community college to announce a program for two years of free community college based on the Tennessee Promise program here generated a lot more attention.
There was a lot that went into getting ready for the president’s visit. The Secret Service was there about a week before to check things out. It’s a sad fact of modern society that they have to look for every possible angle that some crazed person might think of to do harm and to be prepared against it. But Jim said they were very nice and even joked with them sometimes – not at all the stoic faces in sunglasses and earpieces that you see on TV shows.
For the record, if the president ever comes to your area, know that his staff and/or the Secret Service calls all the shots. One lady called the plant to buy tickets and had to be told they weren’t selling tickets. She got quite angry. Someone else called and wanted to bring his son by to meet the president. I don’t think they realized that just because he was coming to a small town, that didn’t mean it was a small-town type visit. Not even all the employees got to hear him speak in person, partly because there wasn’t a venue big enough for that. They had one lottery for people to hear him speak and another for a “meet and greet”: my husband was part of the latter and did get to shake the president’s and vice-president’s hands. Unfortunately we don’t have a picture of that: they weren’t allowed to take “selfies” with the president or ask for autographs, but they were allowed to take pictures of each other, so he has a bunch of pictures of other people shaking hands and has shared them with those in the photos: hopefully one of them has a picture of him they’ll share.
The president was very personable, interested in what they were doing, and asked intelligent questions about their products and processing.
One incident that was funny to tell about later but not so funny at the time: UPS and other major carriers were called and asked not to deliver anything that day. Somehow one smaller company got overlooked, and one of their driver’s drove his truck past all the police cars to deliver his package. Naturally they stopped him and checked out and unloaded his truck. They found the package addressed to the company and had him open it. It as a lab instrument that was housed in a metal carrying case which, of course, looked like ammunition of some kind at first glance. When someone opened the case, it was identified as an instrument for the lab, and the guy was free to pack up his truck and go, very much behind schedule. Even if he didn’t know the president was going to be there that day, it seems he would have realized something was going on with all the police cars there: why he didn’t stop and ask before driving in, we don’t know. If the president had actually been on the premises at the time, it would have been even more serious, I’m sure. As it is he has an interesting story to tell.
It was a long day with a lot of “hurry up and wait” time. They couldn’t go to their offices during certain hours: for security reasons they had everyone in certain areas. And, of course, as when any guest is coming, you hope everything goes well. Thankfully, it seemed to. The CEO and president of the company were very pleased. And now my husband can say he has met the president of the United States and shaken his hand. 🙂