“Why Cannon Falls?” a young girl asked President Obama. It was a question we all wondered, who were among the lucky few hundred allowed to attend the first stop of his Town Hall Bus Tour in Minnesota on August 15, 2011.
“Well, I had heard that Cannon Falls has some of the smartest, best-looking kids around. And you have confirmed the rumor about the outstanding children of Cannon Falls.”
A loud cheer was heard throughout the town from the proud children who were listening on speakers set up downtown. Older generations applauded with pride for them, but there was another truth revealed later that gave us all a reason to stand straight with heads held high. It’s rumored that Cannon Falls had been chosen from a number of small rural towns in Southern Minnesota, because the Secret Service who were scouting a few months ago found the people genuine and the town to be quite beautiful. And beautiful, it is. But sometimes we genuine folks who live in such beauty tend to forget that it’s not the same all over the world.
Before the president arrived, I was approached by several television reporters who requested an interview, to which I said “nay” to the cameras, but politely answered: Are you from the local area? “Yes.” Why are you here? “To hear the president speak.” Do you support President Obama? “I have respect for any U.S. president while they hold office – it’s a tough job.” And of course, Will you vote for Obama in 2012? “We’ll see.” My brief answers were met with disappointment and I could sense they suspected me to be an “empty country bumpkin”; but alas, I am not one to discuss politics with even friends, much less the state, national and international 6 o’clock news.
However, there was one reporter, a woman who represented a French newspaper and whose somewhat non-political questions were a pleasure to answer. My guess, she was writing coverage of the event with a human interest slant. She understood I wouldn’t discuss politics, but we chatted about the area in general, such as the tranquil beauty of the park and how it was a bit sad many of the shade trees had to be trimmed to allow a clear view for surveillance to protect President Obama. We talked about the quaint shops in town, the factories and the surrounding farmland and wildlife. The way her pen continued to dance French shorthand across her steno pad, you’d think I was giving away top secrets! And then after asking me to write my name on her steno pad she asked, “What do you do for a living?”
The answer caught in my throat and my mouth dropped open with a croaky, “Ahhh … well …” stuttering as I always do before explaining my occupation. I had no business cards because we weren’t allowed to bring in bags and I had limited pocket room. I suppressed the temptation to suggest she do a net search. (I didn’t want to appear snarky and I knew she’d probably google me later anyhow). “I’m a designer” I said, the easy answer for those who I assume would not understand what a digitizer is or does, especially to someone who speaks a different language.
But obviously it wasn’t enough as her journalistic curiosity prodded, “What do you design?”
I took a deep breath and looked around at the garments in the crowd, searching for that one logo I could use for an example. All bodies were turned away from us, facing towards where President Obama would be making his entrance, and there’s just not any jacket back embroideries to be seen in the middle of summer. With the exception of the “Men in Black” who appeared to be cool as a cucumber, wearing suits in the 80 degree heat, most of us were dressed for a Sunday picnic in the park. There were a few folks sporting Tees with political messages printed on the backs, but I couldn’t see anything stitched and – gasp! – not even on me! At a loss for an example, I muttered, “Embroidery design.”
“Ohhh!” she said, nodding as if she fully understood, and gave an example, holding her steno pad as one would hold hooped fabric and moving her pen in the other hand like a threaded needle.
“No, not hand embroidery patterns. I’m a puncher – a digitizer – for embroidery machines.” I could see the frown of confusion growing across her forehead, so I continued, “I create the little programs that run computerized machines.” And then to my relief, one man turned around wearing a polo with one of the local bank’s logo I had digitized. “Like that design on that man’s white shirt – right here,” I said patting above my left pocket.
An “Oprah aha moment” twinkled in her eyes. By gosh, I think she got it. She was certainly writing fast enough. “You are a deejsheetizer! (a word that sounds very pretty with a French accent.) “You make the designs for machines – broiderie machines.” Yes, yes, she got it! “Soooo …. you deejsheetize for the Shineese factoreeze?”
“No, no, no, no! I have digitized for some embroiderers in other countries, but not China, and most of my regular clients are in the U. S.”
I felt as shocked as the look on her face as she asked, “You have many broiderie factoreeze in the U.S.?”
We do, indeed, I claimed, wondering why she found that curious. “There’s an embroiderer most everywhere you go in the U.S. We have four businesses right around this rural area – some large, some small shops, and one is even located on a dairy farm, where she runs two machines and pulls in a good deal of work.” That dancing pen of hers shifted into high gear, while an eyebrow raised in surprise, so I just had to ask, “Don’t you have many embroidery businesses in France?”
“Oui – we do for specialized, some for bridal and fashone – a few here and there. But the broideries, like for beesness logos (pointing above her left pocket) it is not so easy to find. Without a lot of money it is difficult to start beesnesses like that in France, so we get most through Shineese factoreez.”
I offered an apology for not having said much about my political views to help write her story and she held up her steno pad, flipping through a few filled pages with a smile. “Look at theess! You give me very much for my storee! Merci!”
As well, this French reporter gave me “very much” to think about while President Obama addressed health care, social security, creating jobs and more, and stressing the importance of compromise to accomplish it all. And he reminded us about those advantages that we already do have and that we sometimes unwittingly forget while trying to make it another day. “Obviously America has gone through extraordinary challenges over the last two and a half years,” he said. “We’ve [experienced] the worst recession since the Great Depression, dating all the way back to 2007, 2008. But … if you ask people around the world, people would still tell you America has got the best universities, we’ve got the best scientists, we’ve got the best entrepreneurs – we’ve got so much going for us that folks would gladly trade places with us. Around the world, people still understand the extraordinary power, but also the extraordinary hope that America represents.”
Thank you, President Obama for visiting Cannon Falls! It was truly a moment of inspiration and insight!