People I Have Met
By Georgie Bright Kunkel
People are curious and always have been. Just think of the early explorers in Europe who dared to sail out into the ocean hoping to find a way to China. When people thought if they sailed far enough they would drop off the earth it must have taken great courage to point a ship toward the horizon. Now instead of traveling in the flesh we can virtually go anywhere in the world with just a flick across the screen held in the hand. Yes, I know, even the mouse is now outmoded.
But the yen for exploration has never ended. Corporations that have literally spread around the world are moving workers to London, Cairo—you name it. And with all this movement comes meeting people of every persuasion. We think we are pretty independent but really we are a product of everyone who has influenced us in our lives.
I look back on my life, born just after my father died, and recall my live-in nanny who was gregarious and interested in the world around her. My mother was serious and dedicated to raising children who could become independent. With two such “mothers” how could I go wrong?
Then there were the neighbors who would tell me stories of their lives and listen to me when I wanted to share something. My grade school art and music teacher was very supportive of my attempts to teach myself how to play the violin in our little orchestra. Of course I mustn’t forget my little boy chum who taught me to pick up snakes and to collect pollywogs when the rains flooded the field across our alley. He even looked me up after coming back from WWII but we decided that we were still just chums.
I met Texas Governor Ann Richards at a convention I attended and was thrilled to know that a woman had reached such a high position in government. That was before Chris Gregoire became governor of our state. I even shook hands with President Bill Clinton when he was working a crowd at a cocktail party. But while at this party I made the mistake of picking up somebody’s glass of wine instead of my water. After one big sip I felt queasy for a while. Oh, oh, and I brag about never letting liquor touch my lips. One sip doesn’t count, does it?
When I took a tour of India and Thailand I met a princess who owned the hotel where our tour group stayed. She must have needed money to keep up her lifestyle as our tour included a cocktail party at her residence--shades of the poor Europeans with titles but no funds who rent out their castles.
Once at a national education conference I was in the green room with Alex Haley who was honored for his book Roots which stimulated a movement to discover one’s ancestral heritage. As a result of meeting him, I began researching my own heritage and wrote my life story and helped my late husband write his as well. My biggest name-dropping experience was appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show. She touched the hearts of many with her desire to help people become their best selves. As a result of this appearance my late husband and I were invited to appear on the noon news here in Seattle. Who should be waiting in the green room to appear on a later segment of the news program but Larry King. I asked if I could take his picture and he invited me to pose with him.
Even with Oprah’s powerful presence in the world there are still people who cannot tolerate a black person—especially a black woman--with such power or a black man who has risen to the presidency. Since it will take much longer for a woman to rise to the highest office in our land, you can imagine how these people will feel when a woman finally makes it. They will think the world has gone to hell in a hand basket as they say. It takes an old anthropology buff to realize that we have all come from the same roots. Educating everyone to accept that is my hope for the future.
Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer and public speaker who can be reached at
email@example.com or 206-935-8663.