Meeting “Important” People

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Although my stint in law school hasn’t even lasted a full calendar year yet, it’s already led me to a couple of situations where I got the chance to rub elbows with some people who are, arguably, pretty important. (The elbow rubbing is figurative, of course…otherwise that would just be weird.) Which has got me thinking about meeting “important” people…and what makes them so special anyway.

I mean, let’s be real. A person is a person. I had a moment of realization at the Elton John concert last month, and I leaned over to Shaun and said “right now, we’re in the same room as a person who went to the Royal Wedding.” To which he replied, “yeah…and Diana’s funeral.” For a minute or so, I was a little awestruck. And then I found myself wondering…why? After all, he’s just a man. A man with a great voice, who made a great career for himself using that voice over the last 40 or so years. But he’s still just a man. Probably not that much different than any of the people I come into contact with on a daily basis. He has wants, needs, fears, secrets…just like everyone else. I found myself wondering what they are. I found myself wanting to know about him as a person, as opposed to just a singer.

These thoughts resurfaced when a pretty important Clinton administration member spoke to us in one of my classes this week. Now, don’t get me wrong. This guy was Madeline Albright’s deputy ambassador to the UN for 8 years. He was the United States’ main guy in the creation of the International Criminal Court in the Hague. He told us anecdotes about flying across the world on Air Force 2 with Madeline and Hillary (Clinton, that is). He’s done important things. He’s met important people. But he was also a little full of himself. Maybe this is something that you have to get used to when you individually represent an entire nation in pretty serious international law negotiations. But as important as this guy (and the work he did) was…he’s still just a man. His daughter attends the UW for undergrad just like I did. Her dad was an ambassador. My dad is a truck driver. Does that really make us so different? I’m not sure.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand our societal fascination with celebrity, but I think the way that individuals approach the idea of being “important” matters a lot. With Elton, I liked him immediately because he seemed like a guy who just happened to be on a stage, singing his heart out. Just a man doing what he loves to do. With the ambassador, I felt turned off to the important things that he had done because he was a little too impressed with himself. Humility is key, bragging turns people off.

No matter who you are, I think that’s something important to keep in mind.

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