Just last Wednesday afternoon, during a break at the office in which we all joked about the Forrest Gump nature of the things I’ve done and people I’ve had the privilege to meet, I managed to dig up a March 29, 2011 Twitter exchange between me and my friend (and mentor) Michael von Herff.
The seeds for our tweets were planted two months earlier (January 2011). I was working at Fleishman-Hillard at the time and received a call one afternoon from the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray. I’m not sure how the call ended up on my phone. Mr. Gray wanted to talk about the type of work we were doing. He was particularly interested in how he might have the opportunity to serve as a senior advisor, alongside Monte Solberg.
Over lunch at Taylor’s in Ottawa South the following week, Mr. Gray told me that of all the members opposite he’d had the pleasure to work with during his 40 years as an MP, he held Monte in the highest esteem. He also told me that if he was still in politics, he would be “all over” the web including Twitter and Facebook. He was quite energized about what social media was making possible and could yet do for politics and democratic engagement.
Before lunch was over, Mr. Gray extended an invitation to have me and my two daughters be his guests on Parliament Hill, including lunch at the Parliament restaurant. He reminded me of the invitation during an email exchange following our meeting.
I was contacted by the Ottawa Citizen in the weeks leading up to the 2011 election call. They solicited an op-ed piece from me on what role I felt digital, Twitter in particular, would play in the election. The piece ran on March 29.
Mr. Gray phoned the first Blevis he could find in the phone book that morning. It was my parents’ number. They provided my home number to Mr. Gray and he called right away to congratulate me on the piece. He told me it was insightful and well-written — a fascinating read. We spoke for about 10 minutes about the role of digital in politics. Mr. Gray was very interested in what I had to say.
I tweeted “Wow! I just got a call from Herb Gray congratulating me on my op-ed piece,” along with a link to the now no-longer available column. Minutes later, Michael shot back “Name dropper — don’t be a rookie.”
I never did take Mr. Gray up on his invitation despite the fact he issued several reminders since that phone call. To this day, part of me remains uncomfortable with the idea of inconveniencing him while another part feels like I missed out and denied my daughters a unique experience to spend time with Mr. Gray and see a part of Parliament Hill not open to the public.
More of me is honoured that I had the opportunity to spend uninterrupted time geeking out about politics and digital with one of Canada’s most respected politicians.
This post probably cements me as a rookie and name dropper.