My Absence

by John O'Sullivan

My apologies are due to Corner readers for having been absent from this charivari (and from the wider pastures of NRO) since early May when Mark Steyn kindly advertised my appearance in New Hampshire. Late in the day though it is, I would like to thank both the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm’s College and the Vesta Roy Excellence in Public Service series of debates for being such helpful and generous hosts for my first visit to Manchester.

I’ve been giving speeches and lectures for almost half a century, but I still get nervous beforehand. On this occasion my nervousness was accentuated first because this was my first “power point presentation” illustrated by clips from films and television, and second by the history of St. Anselm’s.

Neil Levesque, the IoP’s director, escorted me around the college, pointing out the photographs (with accompanying stories) of previous speakers, including virtually every famous politician in the U.S. Indeed, every presidential candidate since the 1960s had spoken at the college. It was clear I would be facing an experienced audience of bored sophisticates demanding, as Diaghilev demanded of Jean Cocteau, “Astonish us, John.” My best chance of doing so, I reckoned gloomily, was that the PowerPoint presentation would explode in a shower of brilliant sparks. Fortunately, the PowerPoint presentation was in the experienced hands of Ann Camaan, the operations manager at the IoP, who ensured that it all went very smoothly.

#more#And I found to my surprise that giving a lecture with film clips is much more interesting than a conventional lecture, for the speaker as well as for the audience. As the talk went on I got quite interested in what I would say next. And since Mark had given me a tremendous introduction, the audience regarded me as an authority on the topic — which was, incidentally, “Leading Lady — Margaret Thatcher and the Political Destiny of Women.”  So the talk went well, eliciting lots of good questions from solid New Hampshire citizens. I may take it on the road (See for details.)

My anxieties beforehand were assuaged by Pam Kocher, formerly state director for Senator John Sununu, who collected and delivered me to the event, and in the meantime gave me a brief tour of Manchester and a potted history of New Hampshire politics with lots of entertaining stories. I hope she will write her memoirs some day; let other people be nervous. Afterwards Mark took Pam, me, and the entire One Man Global Content Provider supporting network of clever amusing women for a splendid dinner in Manchester to celebrate my birthday (Which birthday? Don’t ask; don’t tell.)  So a very pleasant introduction to New Hampshire came to an end. And, as far as Corner readers are concerned, I disappeared.

It is not true that I was found a week later, disoriented and exchanging words with a Calvin Coolidge sound-alike at a crossroads:

“Is this the way to Boston?”
“Don’t know.”
“Well, is this the way to Boston?”
“Don’t know.”
“Well, is this the way to Boston?”
“Don’t know.”
“You don’t know much, do you.”
“Ain’t lost.”

In fact I took a transatlantic trip to Europe only a few days after leaving New Hampshire. Almost immediately I fell ill with some kind of influenza that clung to me as I traveled, making me permanently sleepy and writing extremely difficult. I did write occasional pieces, but few and far between and mainly for print, such as my NR cover story on Angela Merkel and the imploding Euro. Still, I have some continental impressions and experiences stored up for release over the next week or so alongside regular Corner commentaries on the latest events.

And charivari?  A medley of discordant voices. The banging of pots and pans. Take your pick.

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