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Shaking Hands With Greatness: How I Learned the True Value of a Handshake

Updated on October 2, 2014

Bill Clinton Touched Me

On May 5th 2008 at approximately 11:40pm Former President William Jefferson Clinton touched me. He reached right out and shook my hand. Can you imagine that? Little old nobody me actually shook hands with greatness.

Initially, I wasn't even tempted to fight my way into the swarming crowd of people attending the Hillary Rodham Clinton for President campaign rally.

Being a mild-mannered personality, I was completely satisfied just to be able to see the man in person, to stand within 20 yards of him, to hear him speak - but something my eighteen-year-old son said to me prompted my action, forced my will, enabled me to tempt fate and jump into the masses to grab my chance.

What are the Chances?

It's tough making it to the front of the crowd.
It's tough making it to the front of the crowd. | Source

New Release by Bill Clinton

Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World
Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World

Bill Clinton shares his ideas for the ways that each of us can help to change the world.


Politics Aside

Whatever your political party affiliation might be, you have to grant the man his due. Bill Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States, a great leader, and a huge part of American history.

Bill Clinton was appearing at the Raleigh, North Carolina - Hillary for President Headquarters to thank the volunteers and to encourage everyone to vote in the May 6 primary.

We waited for his arrival for hours listening to various speakers including a man who had been trapped beneath the World Trade Center on 9/11 and a campaign spokesperson who joked about the fact that Bill was probably late because he was shaking hands with people at his previous engagement.

Ours was his 9th stop of the day.

Campaign headquarters were being held in what used to be a warehouse. Bill's "stage" was set up in the loading dock area behind the building and was fashioned in the bed of an old pick up truck parked at the end of a ramp. We in the audience stood behind three foot metal fencing.

Have You Ever . . .

thrown caution to the wind just to get a handshake?

See results

Out of the Mouths of Babes

At the end of his speech Bill began shaking hands with those who were lucky enough to be in the front row. We were several rows back but my son decided that he was going to get in there. I handed my son a booklet asking him to get Bill's autograph if he could. My son did get close enough to barely brush Bill's hand but because he was holding the booklet, wasn't able to grab a handshake. He came back with a frown, angry that he'd missed his chance.

You see, I thought an autograph would be a super memento of the occasion but that wasn't what my son was after.

At this point, Bill looked like he was preparing to leave. He walked back across the make-shift podium, back up the ramp, started waving goodbye and then the next thing we knew, he climbed over the railing and jumped down off the side of the walkway, chancing an almost 3 foot drop, just to have another go around with the crowd. Amazing!

My son leapt at this new opportunity and raced back to the front. This time he was successful. He returned in triumph and said:

"That man shook the hand of all of the most powerful people of our time and now he's shaken my hand too!"

Smart Boy

My son realized the magnitude of the connection to history that one handshake could hold.

Bill Clinton had indeed shaken the hands of the most powerful people, the most famous leaders, the most important VIP's, and the most popular celebrities of our time.

What superior value could a slip of paper with a signature on it hold over such a strong connection to the world as we know it.

Before my mind could finish visualizing this concept I threw caution to the wind and dashed into the crowd myself. If you knew me for even a short time, you'd know that this is completely out of my usual meek character.

Suddenly I was being crushed. He was nearby. I felt like I couldn't breath. He was moving closer. I reached out my hand. He was right there. It was now or never. He was right in front of me. I threw myself into it. (Richard Reed of the Fabulous Four couldn't have been more flexible.)

And then - I felt it. He grasped my hand. I closed my fingers around his, looked into his eyes and in that instant, just like my son, I was connecting with world history and all of the people Bill Clinton had ever met.

In that instant, I had moved my 6 degrees closer to more people and more history than I could ever imagine.

Pretty impressive, huh?

Shaking Hands with Greatness: A Future President Meets (and shakes the hand of) JFK

Have You Ever . . .

shaken Bill Clinton's hand?

See results

The Hand That Touched The Hand . . .

The hand that touched the hand of so many great people has also touched mine.
The hand that touched the hand of so many great people has also touched mine. | Source

An Interesting Read

First in His Class: A Biography Of Bill Clinton
First in His Class: A Biography Of Bill Clinton

Explore the evolution of the personality of Bill Clinton from his youth up until he announced his run for the presidency.


Thank you for visiting, letting me share my story, and for participating in the polls. Feel free to leave any and all comments below.

Tell us about the most important hand you've ever shaken.

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    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 3 years ago from USA

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts RonElFran.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I don't remember ever shaking the hand of a celebrity. Maybe that's why it's not something I think I'd be excited about. It's an interesting thought, though. I wonder how I would react if I had the opportunity to shake the hand of, say, a president of the US. I'd probably do it just to be able to drop the name. "When I was chatting with Barak the other day..."

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 3 years ago from USA

      Thanks for sharing with us ecogranny. That was a powerful and great handshake you received indeed!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Had to take a look and see how this once-lens transferred to a hub. Nicely done!

      In answer to your question, one hand I had the privilege to shake comes to mind. It was the hand of the poet, Audre Lorde. I have been to a number of poetry readings, and none so memorable as Miss Lorde's. What a voice she had. What a presence. What a deep understanding of language, of her heart, and of the hearts of others.

      She was amazingly kind when I asked her to autograph my brand new copy of her book, and I've never forgotten her generous support of me as a young writer. With nothing more than a deep look into my eyes and heart as she held my hand, and exactly the right words, she invoked in me a courage and strength that I call on to this day.

      For me, that is greatness.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 3 years ago from USA

      Thank you Brite-Ideas. I appreciate you stopping by.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Your modifications to make this fit into Hub from Squidoo look very good. I've always been a Bill Clinton fan, he sure is a smart, well spoken man. Enjoyed your page and your throwing caution to the wind for a handshake!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 3 years ago from USA

      Thank you MartieG. It was fun to relive the moment while I was updating this one.

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 3 years ago from Jersey Shore

      What wonderful story and a great memory for you and your son-nicely done!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      I'm always amazed at the ability of people like President Clinton to shake hand after hand. I don't know firsthand, but I've heard it said that they experience considerable nerve damage and pain from shaking all those hands, yet he continues to go out and do it. He is either truly a man of the people, or a man who knows how to work the crowd. Or perhaps both.Loved reading your story. I imagined you fairly leaping through the bodies to get to the front of the line. How wonderful your son had the wisdom to speak his feelings aloud and so eloquently. I imagine the chip, as they say, didn't fall far from the tree. Yes?

    • Sara2901 profile image

      Sara2901 4 years ago

      Good for you. My daughter who is a freshman in college and 6 other students had their picture taken with President Jimmy Carter. She stood right next to him. We felt very proud.

    • profile image

      DebMartin 4 years ago

      Lucky, lucky you. Wish Bill Clinton the best of health for a long, long time. We still need him.

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 4 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      President Clinton is very charismatic. I would definitely shake his hand.

    • Flowerchild1946 profile image

      Carol Brooks 4 years ago from Florida

      I, too, loved Bill Clinton. Things were pretty good when he was president.

    • Monika Weise profile image

      Monika Weise 4 years ago from Indianapolis, IN USA

      Wow! I loved Bill Clinton, in spite of his naughty ways. I envy you the handshake. Good for you for going for it.

    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 4 years ago

      This new theme looks awesome, Robin. I have not had the opportunity to shake Bill Clinton's hand but I can imagine what the experience would feel like. How long was it Robin before you washed your hand after shaking Bill Clinton's hand? LOL!!! I always felt if you want something bad enough you have to really "go for it" and it sounded like you did to shake Bill Clinton's hand. Way to go! I appreciate you sharing. Thank You & Have a Great Day!

    • Roxanne Castillo profile image

      Roxanne Castillo 5 years ago

      I haven't met Bill Clinton but I hope I have the opportunity to! My father has, and I know what that meant to him. I'll be working on supporting Hillary for 2016. I already am actually. Here's to SHATTERING THE GLASS CEILING!

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I am a big fan of Bill Clinton, as President, but moreso for what he has done since. Great lens! Thanks for sharing... ;-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      An interesting story, Robin. It should be an honor to shake hands with greatness. :)

    • bhthanks profile image

      bhthanks 6 years ago


    • Farkhof profile image

      Farkhof 6 years ago

      what a memorable moment...

    • JeremiahStanghini profile image

      JeremiahStanghini 7 years ago

      This is pre-supposing that YOU are not greatness... ;-)With Love and Gratitude,Jeremiah

    • NHgal LM profile image

      NHgal LM 7 years ago

      I shook Pres. Clinton's hand. He was at my graduation at NH's Stratham Technical College. There were TV cameras lined up at the back of the tent, and the Secret Service checked each person as they came in. It was only a few months after he was inaugurated. Officially he was there to promote a new program supporting community colleges. Unofficially, he was there to fulfill a campaign promise. A year earlier, during his campaign, the student body president asked if he would come back to his graduation the next year. At the time, Clinton said "Yes". Then, after Clinton was elected President, the student body president contacted him to remind him of his campaign promise. As it was his first time as President at a college graduation, he was nervous, and kept looking at the college president to ask "What do I do now/next"? Eventually, after a speech, he handed out our diplomas to each of us individually, and shook our hands. We each got a picture of him shaking our hand. It was a very memorable day.

    • profile image

      Sojourn 8 years ago

      Robin, I love your style. Witty, smart, and open. I would have felt the same way. I'm a bit timid in a crowd anyway, but a President? There is something awe-inspiring about the whole historical connection. I enjoyed every word! :)

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 9 years ago

      How cool! Sounds like an awesome experience. I have always liked the Clintons and voted for him in the presidential elections....

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 9 years ago

      Well, I must say that this lens is getting me thinking. I don't think I have shaken hands with greatness, but you put it in a different light!*****

    • beeobrien lm profile image

      beeobrien lm 9 years ago

      That's terrific!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 9 years ago from Arkansas USA

      That is a great story, Robin, and a great lesson. I saw Air Force One up close once and that was a very inspiring brush with history, but certainly this far surpasses that. Congratulations!

    • CrypticFragment1 profile image

      Tammy Winand 9 years ago from McleodGanj HP India

      great story rms!!! great lens for these times...our politics may not be the same, but I sure "feel ya" on the greatness of the moment!

    • GypsyPirate LM profile image

      GypsyPirate LM 9 years ago

      This is a great story. I am so proud of you for acting outside your "norm", and equally proud of your son for being the catalyst to help you do it. Thanks for sharing this.

    • blondeheroine profile image

      blondeheroine 9 years ago

      Congratualations! Love Bill. :)

    • gurneywagon profile image

      gurneywagon 9 years ago

      Kudos to you for spreading your wings! Aren't kids a marvelous inspiration? Thanks for sharing!

    • katiyanascollec profile image

      katiyanascollec 9 years ago

      Awesome story! And a memory your son will have for the rest of his life!

    • Gordon N Hamilton profile image

      Gordon N Hamilton 9 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      I'm glad you managed to have such an experience. I can relate to it from when I met Margaret Thatcher.

    • profile image

      bdkz 9 years ago

      That is too cool!

    • JohannDog profile image

      Johann The Dog 9 years ago from Northeast Georgia

      What a great story! My Mum shook Henry Kissinger's hand once. She was only 23 years old at the time, a low level secretary at a convention center. He had just gotten out of a meeting room at the center with Gerald Ford. Mum turned the corner walking down the hall and there they both were!

    • giltotherescue profile image

      Gil Hildebrand 9 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Great story! I'd love to meet Bill someday.

    • profile image

      WhippetTalk 9 years ago

      That's so awesome! I'm excited for you. I have only eaten at a restaurant where he ate once. They have a wall painted with his image and two secret service agents in the background. LOL Congraulations with your brush with greatness.

    • carrieokier profile image

      carrieokier 9 years ago

      Awesome! I'm so happy that you "went for it".

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 9 years ago

      I once shook Jimmy Carter's hand. It was during a flight to Georgia, and he came around to personally shake each passenger's hand. It was pretty neat!