by King Golden
I WAS ONE OF MUSKIE'S YOUTH COORDINATORS working with Lanny Davis to get the student vote for Muskie [in 1972]. We weren't being very successful, as McGovern had garnered all the anti-war student activists with his early opposition to the U.S. involvement in Viet Nam. This particular incident took place at the University of Illinois Champagne/Urbana campus. I had arrived at the campus several weeks prior to Muskie's visit to organize a group of volunteers and get student leader endorsements. A site was selected in front of an administration building for Muskie to address the students. We worked very hard on promoting the event, but I was not optimistic.
Muskie's statesman-like stature never seemed to excite the students and I was concerned that the event would be dispiriting to him. Fortunately that was not to be the case. Muskie began his speech solemnly and the eyes of the crowd started to glaze over. Then Muskie delivered a line that brought a smattering of applause. Muskie responded as if someone had called his name. The next line brought more applause and so with the next, and the next. When it ended Muskie was flushed, smiling, and invigorated and on to Chicago.
What Muskie hadn't realized, nor did any of the staff members or officials who were with him, was that a young African-American student had appeared at the second floor window early in speech and had started waving his arms, feigning clapping, encouraging the crowd to join in. At each pause in the speech he again gesticulated until he, the crowd and Muskie were in rhythm together. He remained there throughout as the cheerleader for the speech and disappeared when it ended. The crowd loved the little joke they had all played on Muskie, but they seemed to like him more than ever because of it.
He personally had become more engaged and animated with them in the course of it all. It was something I'll never forget.
I think Alan Krauss was there too. He's a great guy. He was Muskie's #1 fan.
Thanks for letting me share.
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