We hadn’t known this before we booked our cruise, but one of the speakers for the week was our own former U.S. Senator Al Simpson. We were thrilled to know he would be speaking throughout the week. In addition, his close friend, Norman Mineta would be sharing the speaker’s platform. Norman was the U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation under President George W. Bush, the only Democrat to hold office on his cabinet. He was in this position on 9/11 and was the man who issued an order to ground all U.S. civilian aircraft, something that had never happened before. He also worked on the implementation of the Transportation Security Administration department for airline safety. Here is an excellent video of Norman’s recollections of the events on 9/11.
We listened to all their speeches throughout the week and they were fascinating, funny at times and entertaining.
The story of how the two became best friends is amazing, and they took turns sharing the story with us. Norman’s family had been detained at Heart Mountain–near Cody, Wyoming–one of the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Al’s Boy Scout leader decided to take his troop of young boys out to the camp to play competitive games and camp-out together. They ended up in the same tent and became fast friends for life, though one joined the Democratic party and the other joined the Republicans. Maybe this is why Al was always so good at crossing party lines and working to compromise rather than hating the other side, something that is badly needed now.
We had met Al several times before, and he invited us to have lunch with them in the Palm Court; it was a special treat to sit with these two giants of the political world–men with integrity, kindness, intelligence and openness. Their wives, Ann and Deni, are also about as kind and caring as anyone you could meet.
We asked a lot of questions about Washington and about 9/11, of course, and they willingly answered them all. What an honor and privilege to dine with these special people!
Here are some photos from breakfast and from our dinner that evening.