The Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, PA.
Nov. 30, 2017
Hillary Clinton has a new book out, What Happened, and she’s on the road promoting it through sit-down speaking engagements across the country, where she details what went wrong for her campaign during last year’s landmark election, what she’s been doing since and her plans for the future.
One of the stops on Clinton’s book tour was Philadelphia, so I decided to attend her speaking engagement. The cheapest ticket was $205. Those who spent $750 got a front-row ticket and a private VIP meet and greet with the former First Lady before the show. Unfortunately, if you didn’t spend top dollar on tickets, you didn’t go home with an autographed copy of the book.
Toward the end of the program, a heckler made himself known. I didn’t hear what he said because he was met with a chorus of boos from the crowd. But Clinton said, “No, I’ll respond to what he said. This is an example of how deep the rot goes in this country of the blurring of fact and fiction.” She then went on to discuss the insane rumor that she was running a child sex-abuse ring in the basement of a pizzeria, and how someone believed this fake news so much that he burst into the pizza place with an Uzi to free the children. Clinton pointed out that he quickly learned there was no basement at the pizza place, much less any children being held captive. This heckler incident made me realize that, perhaps, tickets prices were high as a way of keeping out people like this one. It’s logical to think that someone would only be willing to shell out hundreds of dollars to see someone if they, in fact, support that person.
Going into the event I didn’t have much interest in reading What Happened. I felt as though I’d gotten my fill of last year’s tumultuous election. However, by the end of the event I was more than ready to read Clinton’s new book. Why? There are several reasons. First, her book examines women in power and the adversity they face. Considering the recent, never-ending wave of revelations about sexual abuse in the workplace, this topic couldn’t be more timely. Second, I think it would be fascinating to read her account of last year’s election, to gain a greater understanding of what she went through and how it impacted her life, knowing full well that what’s in the book is, more than likely, a sanitized version of the truth.
Clinton’s Philadelphia event started late because her meet and greet with fans backstage ran longer than expected, which isn’t surprising considering she’s known to be chatty. When she stepped on to the stage, the crowd erupted into thunderous applause and jumped to their feet. Throughout the event, they responded with vigorous clapping, multiple standing ovations and numerous chants of “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary!” Hearing these sounds bounce off the historic walls of Philadelphia’s Academy of Music and swirl around me was an assault on the senses for which I wasn’t prepared. It made me realize just how much influence Clinton has on a significant amount of people.
Writer Jennifer Weiner interviewed Clinton throughout the program. She did a serviceable job, but it was clear that Clinton knew what she wanted to say, regardless of the questions. Her opening statement, which was nearly identical to the opening of the book, was emblazoned on a teleprompter in front of her. Having attended a countless number of concerts, I’m used to seeing these teleprompters propped up on the bottom of a stage and, for politicians, they are as commonplace as a podium.
Clinton discussed everything from Matt Lauer’s unfair moderation of a debate between her and Trump, to what she and her family did for Thanksgiving this year. It was a personal, humorous and immensely enlightening discussion that gave me a greater understanding of Clinton, what matters to her and how she thinks. By the time she stepped off stage, disappearing into the darkness amid electric adulation, I wanted to know what happened even more than before.
Michael Cavacini is an award-winning communications professional, and his arts and culture site, MichaelCavacini.com, features additional interviews with iconic artists.
Editor’s note: The print version attributed the above photo to the author, but it is credited to Craig Melendes.