Recently, I met two men.
One man had a round, pink face.
The other man's face was tan and thin.
The men are leaders that many of us look up to.
The pink-faced man had a lot of white hair.
The thin-faced man had hair that was a few different colors, including many shades of brown and black and gray, like the colors anyone can find in Mr. Wags' fur. Mr. Wags is a small-size dog that lives down the street from me and can usually dodge rocks, but was injured by Dwayne and Lamar last Halloween.
The two leaders I met are named Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. What I have told you so far are only two facts about the two men, but there are other things, too. Important things, and here is what they are:
One man is the President of the United States of America, and the other wants to be President of the United States of America.
They are both running for that office, which can be described as a big, superimportant contest. But, of course, only one man can win. And that man will be the next President of the United States of America, our country.
This paper will tell and use information that I found out to show what it was like to see these two men who are important not only to all of us, but to our country, which is where we all live. And where Bill Clinton and Bob Dole live, too.
The United States of America.
It was a hot day when I saw Bob Dole.
It was in a jail called Tent City, which is not very much like a city the way Phoenix is but has many tents. The men who live in this city are criminals, and when I was there, many had no shirts on, and anyone could see that some of the criminals had tattoos.
As I saw these men, though, I wasn't scared to be there, like some fourth-graders might be, because our sheriff, who is named Joe Arpaio, made sure that there were plenty of guards around in case the criminals began using karate moves to start a battle where they could get some guns and shoot us all, probably in the back of the head, and then light up cigarettes and high-five each other as they took people's car keys from their dead bodies and sped away laughing at what fun it was to do crime and how much they hated living in Tent City.
This didn't happen because Sheriff Joe made sure of it. When I looked at the criminals, they just looked sleepy. Thanks to Sheriff Joe.
I saw Sheriff Joe as I walked in, and he was telling reporters some hard facts. I couldn't really hear, but he pointed at the air during some words, and the reporters frowned and stared almost like they were in trouble and getting a lecture. But if you think Sheriff Joe might look like you would think a tough guy might look, like Jean-Claude Van Damme or Chuck Norris, somebody strong and whom girls would like, you are wrong.
Sheriff Joe looks like he is melting.
There are what my dad calls "love handles" that droop from his sides, pushing through his sheriff costume, which is brown and light brown. The sheriff's face sags down, giving him a mean or sad expression on his face. His shoulders slump, too, and if he was in gym with us last year, Coach would probably have called him what he called Danny's fat cousin Norman, who wheezed a lot, which was "you sad sack of shit."
But I think this is wrong. It is wrong to judge a person by what he looks like on the outside as Coach did, and besides, Sheriff Joe must be a strong man on the inside to catch all those criminals and then run a whole city of them. Even if, instead of buildings and homes and companies, it is made of just tents.
Everybody waited in the sun for Bob Dole to show up, and a lot of us were sweating. They had free water, and they gave us cookies to eat that I thought were supposed to be butts but turned out to be cookies in the shape of pink underwear, which is a famous trick that Sheriff Joe pulled on prisoners by making them wear pink underwear. Unlike some cities, in Phoenix we have a funny sheriff.
Lots of reporters were traveling around with Bob Dole, who is old, and they showed up right before he did and got to have lunches in boxes that came from a truck that said "Executive Catering--Deliciously Different." But they all looked worried and tired and spoke on portable phones using different cuss and swear words. They didn't seem to want the lunches, and I know they can't use those words in normal papers.
We all heard music.
It was the music from a movie my dad took me to see that is called Patriot Games, which is about nuclear disaster that might happen, and bad government officals. This music was strange and spooky and gave you the feeling that something bad was going to happen.
Then Bob Dole showed up.
Bob Dole is an important, special citizen in our country, and you could tell that because he was surrounded by Secret Service men for protection, and also Bob Dole was not sweating like everyone else. He walked up on the stage and sat there holding his pen and listening to Phoenix citizens tell him all of their troubles. These stories were sad and terrible, with deaths and other problems in all of them, and Bob Dole listened, and you could tell he was really listening by his serious look and his head that nodded many times.
After some very bad stories, he applauded with everyone else but slapped his hand on his knee because his pen hand was injured in a war, and he had to fight and use courage to become a member of our government, and that is why Bob Dole is strong today.
Then it was Bob Dole's turn to speak, and he told a story of a family whose daughter was murdered selling Girl Scout cookies. He said other things as the press people took his picture, and once he promised to "cut drug use in half in this country." This means that many kids will only smoke half a joint or take half of a pill, and for health reasons anyone can see that Bob Dole has a good idea.
One thing Bob Dole liked to do was repeat the ends of his sentences, like in, "The criminal will not be able to get that gun. Get that gun." This man might be our next president, and when he was finished talking, he walked right toward me. As he came closer and closer, Bob Dole made me feel excited, as he did many others.
Then there he was, standing right there, and I couldn't think of anything to say. He was neat and clean and barely sweating, and acted friendly. As he moved away, I thought of a great question: "How does a bill become a law?" The way the film shows it at school is for the bill, which has a smiling face and tiny feet and hands, to walk and jump from one part of the government to another until it becomes a law.
If Bob Dole knows about this, I can't say, because he walked past the Port-O-San and left.
The first thing I noticed that was different from when I went to see Bob Dole than when I went to see President Bill Clinton was that at the Grand Canyon there is no barbed wire or any tents containing criminals. What they have there instead is natural beauty that is beautiful and totally natural, and hundreds of tourists come from many countries every year to see it, proving this.
Also, the president was not coming here to meet Sheriff Joe, but on official business. A lot of local newspapers have written about his visit, and it was to sign a bill (he had to sign "Bill" on the bill!) to make thousands and thousands of acres in Utah into a national monument called Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This is for Spanish and English people, because Escalante means escalator in English.
The Grand Canyon is already a national monument, and the place in Utah is so natural they haven't built roads in there yet, so President Bill Clinton had to come here. Though many of us had not seen the place in Utah, it was easy enough to imagine how natural and beautiful it must be by just closing our eyes, or opening them and actually looking at the Grand Canyon, which everyone there (including our president!) thought was so beautiful.
I noticed a lot more people came to the Grand Canyon to see our president than had been to Tent City, and most of them were really happy to be there, wearing jackets because it was a little cold. The ceremony was outside, and President Clinton was set up to speak to us right at the edge of the canyon. I had seen a Three Stooges episode where Moe was taking Curly's picture next to a cliff and kept telling him to back up a little more and a little more, and then he fell off. I thought about this, but knew that President Clinton would not fall for a trick like that, and he had probably seen that episode anyway.
A lady ranger named Candace Tinkler stood beside me and answered my questions:
Why is the flag at half staff?
"Oh, I don't know." I said I thought it might be because of Spiro Agnew, a historical vice president who quit before Richard Nixon did, whom they just made a movie about and who also died.
"Oh, that could be it," said Ranger Tinkler.
If it starts to rain, where will our president go?
"I think they'll move him under that porch."
If President Clinton turned around and yelled into the Grand Canyon, would it echo?
"No, not from here," Ranger Tinkler said.
Then a lot of the press people started running, so I joined them to see what was up. They grouped around someone who turned out to be Robert Redford, the good-looking Hollywood celebrity. I heard two ladies say, "Oh, he's so cute!" and one lady say, "Oh, he's so short!"
Robert Redford, who once was on The Twilight Zone, didn't have much to say because he was saving it up for the speech he would give later on. He let press people take his picture, and I yelled, "Hey, Robert," but he didn't look, and you can see in the picture I took that he is not looking.
After that, many other things happened, but they were not important, so I will skip them.
I will skip right to something that is important, the leader of our country, President Bill Clinton. They started playing "Hail to the Chief," and we all knew who was coming.
It was the president! And as an extra treat, the vice president, Al Gore, was right behind him. I would say that all there were excited, standing on their toes to try to see him, which his white hair and big pink face made easier for all of us. Al Gore was easy to see, too, because he is tall like the president and looks like Coach from gym last year.
Some people yelled, "Hey, Billy!" just like the president was their friend, and he smiled, acting like he really was everybody's friend. Plus, he didn't look old, even though his hair was white. Al Gore was the first to talk, and he told us about when he first came to the Grand Canyon in 1971 in his Chevy Impala, and that was cool. Then he introduced Bill Clinton, and we all clapped as our president waved the "hang loose" sign with his right hand and smiled.
I'll never forget one of the first things Bill Clinton said, because I wrote it down. Here it is:
"This is a sunny day. We ought to have a sunny day for a sunny day." Right then, I really liked the president because he was saying something that everyone could understand.
He told us a story of his first time at the Grand Canyon in 1971 (though it was not with Al Gore because they weren't friends yet), when he sat on a rock for two whole hours and watched the sun set, which he said was so beautiful he would never forget it. I'll bet a lot of people walked by him while he sat on that rock and didn't even think they were seeing their president of the future.
And if a ranger had said, "Hey, get off that rock and stay on the path," it would have been funny to see that ranger's face if he were here today and realized that he had told a guy who was going to be president to get off that rock.
President Clinton spoke about what a great thing this new national monument was going to be, and how it would mean a lot not just to us, but to our kids and their kids. I thought that maybe someday one of those kids would be able to sit on a rock at the new monument and watch the sunset, and remember it when he became president at some date in the future, just like President Bill Clinton. So you can see what a good thing this whole thing was.
Finally, Bill Clinton finished talking, and actually signed the bill at a little desk someone had put at the edge of the Grand Canyon. It would have been cool if he had picked up the desk and thrown it over the side when he was through and then done, like, an end-zone dance. Whoever is president owns the Grand Canyon, so I thought he could get away with it, but he didn't.
They played the music from Silverado as the president started to leave, and it did not fill everyone with feelings of terror like the Patriot Games music did. The crowd went crazy, and everyone jammed in to try to shake his hand. I was way in back, but I decided to try to jam in there, too. I got smashed and a lady yelled at me, but I kept going, getting closer to our president.
You might not believe this, but, like a dream or a movie, there I was, and President Bill Clinton was only a foot away. I stuck out my hand, and President Bill Clinton shook it! He didn't have a strong grip, but his hand didn't sweat, and up close his face looked even pinker but serious and nice, like he would say, "Howdy, pardner!"
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He didn't say anything, though, so I yelled, "Hey, Bill, you're the king!" And our president looked at me and didn't smile, but I could tell that he knew I meant it.
It's not everybody who gets to see two men who are great leaders of our country in just two days, and one of them is actually president. Voting and many other things will become important soon that will make us see who the people of this country will want to be the new president.
Maybe Bob Dole will win, maybe Bill Clinton will win. Whoever wins, I think that all of us now have a better idea of what these leaders are like and what they are all about when they do American politics in the United States.
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