January 2014 Bar Bulletin
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January 2014 Bar Bulletin

My Breakfast with Nelson

By Norma Linda Urena


[Editor's Note: In this recycled piece, the author recalls a breakfast she attended at Seattle University in 1999.]

Well, since I didn't get a chance to meet Fidel Castro because he didn't come to Seattle, and because I didn't get to take a picture with Nelson Mandela, I'll settle for telling you all how the breakfast was.

The invitation stated that registration started at 7 a.m. and breakfast at 7:30 a.m. In my usual manner, I arrived at 7:35 a.m. Usually five minutes is not a problem, unless of course you're dealing with a world figure who has Secret Service agents guarding his safety. Needless to say, when I arrived, there were about five people arguing with the people at the door to be let in. The answer was that the State Department closed the doors at 7:30, the building was in lockdown and no one was going in or out until AFTER the breakfast.

Luckily, I knew the person in charge and he talked to the State Department people and they let me in, alone.

When I walked in, the place was packed. I saw a table in the back with three empty chairs so I thought myself very lucky and proceeded to approach the tables to sit down when a woman came up to me and said that she had noticed I had just come in and wanted to know if I would join Rep. Jim McDermott's table up front. Of course, I agreed and followed her.

When I got up to the front, I noticed that at the table next to Rep. McDermott's, at the table right in front of the podium, was a college friend; he had a few seats available at his table, so when he invited me to sit there, I agreed. Now, there were only two people between me and Mandela's table. (There was the stage, though.) Former Gov. Mike Lowry and Roberto Maestas1 were among the people sitting behind me.

When Mandela and his wife, Graca Machel, walked in, I was overwhelmed with emotion as were most people. I felt tears welling up in my eyes. They showed a film about Mandela's life and as I watched the film, I looked at Mandela and his demeanor was humble and peaceful.

When Machel spoke she talked about this breakfast being the highlight of her trip because it was an array of invitees based on their community activities, which made me feel proud to be among the guests.

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