Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, emailher at email@example.com.
As those who read our publication know, there had been plans in the works for a Patriot Day Debate event which was to take place on 9/11 at the Golden Nugget. And so it did.
It’s really funny sometimes how you can see things more clearly after the fact than you can going in. Since I was not in any way involved in the planning or the production of the event (it simply wasn’t in my department), I didn’t get a chance to add my two cents worth or comment on anyone else’s dollar ninety-eight.
But because I did step up to be the impromptu MC when it became evident that the so-called official prearranged MC was not going to do it, I had a front-row “seat,” so to speak, about seeing things from another angle.
The brochures that listed the candidates who had committed to being there, along with their photos and the race in which they were running, looked really good (thanks to our production guy, Donald Snook). It helped people identify who’s who and informed them about the time slots for each candidate.
So far so good, as far as I could see… The Golden Nugget was — as usual — highly professional and above reproach in all they provided, from the room to the layout, to the food to the service. I can’t think of a thing they didn’t do right. We even had a lovely volunteer who was there strictly to accommodate any attendees who might not have gotten around to registering to vote. She remained there throughout, whether or not every single attendee strolled right on by, having already registered or choosing not to do so that day. She was the epitome of friendliness and graciousness, and, I believe, a good addition to that kind of event. And we had Captain Charlie, a delightful addition to the more serious tone of the event, who entertained us with her own style of singing and guitar to give us all a little mental break and soulful lift (she can often be found doing her musical thing over at the Huntridge on Charleston).
What would have been an even greater addition to that kind of event would have been the kind of audience that we anticipated and expected. Yet regardless of the scant audience, let me add right here that every single candidate that showed up spoke to those present in the audience as if there were ten times as many people as there actually were. That is all to their credit. Not one of them refused to address the obviously dedicated, although small, group that cared enough to hear what they had to say. (There was an emergency Special Sessions meeting called in Carson City at the last minute that required all the State Assembly members to be there and consequently, not be at our event; and one candidate had even just broken his hand.)
While on that subject of who showed up and who didn’t, and why we might’ve had such a slim audience for this great event, I am going to offer my thoughts about that situation.
For one thing, although the day was carefully chosen for its significance, unfortunately it is also a day that still strikes fear in the hearts of many; perhaps there is still that unspoken belief that a combination of the date (Sept. 11) coupled with being in a well-known Las Vegas casino could spell trouble, since terrorists make it clear that Las Vegas might be a target and terrorists like to do things on our special days. So that could have been one major “stay-away” factor. (Rolando Larraz, founder of the Las Vegas Tribune, did not attend because he had long-standing prior plans.)
And it was also a weekday, a work day. Then there is the fact — perhaps a little more realistic and possibly more likely — that people didn’t really believe that it was a FREE event. It was not billed as “free,” but apparently since there was no charge listed or given, no tickets to buy, no pre-registration requiring one’s credit card, the producer and promoter of this event, John Thomas, our Marketing/Operations guy, felt it would go without saying.
But consider the facts: it was at the elegant Golden Nugget; there was to be elegant and attractively prepared food served twice throughout the event (enough right there to give pause to those who might tend to be suspicious); and then we had to consider that since the main “course” of the event was presenting politicians, that was enough, I am sure, to have would-be attendees think it just had to come with some sort of charge, or would turn out to be some sort of fundraiser for the candidates of their choice.
Well, it was not. It was indeed free, the food was great, and presenting the candidates — the whole reason we bothered to create this event in the first place — was our mission, and those who spoke did so from their hearts and answered as many questions as were asked, even going into overtime. Yes, I had my favorites, but I will not mention who they were, since I was well pleased with all of them.
Some were no-shows without giving us notice, but without hearing their reasons for not showing up, I will not judge them. But those who spoke helped raise my awareness of who they were and whether or not I wanted to vote for them. Some spoke on issues I had not even considered and needed that slant to put my vote into perspective.
Prior to even the first candidate speaking, I had the opportunity to speak with several of the UNLV students who were there to ask the candidates questions. I certainly hope they got a small dose of reality both regarding the real world versus how we hoped things would be, as well as a peek at politics behind the scenes and even what the Las Vegas Tribune is all about behind the scenes.
When young people have a dose of that reality, they take it back out into the world and share it with their peers. I do want to comment on one member of the audience. A woman who showed up to hear the first speaker and stayed throughout the entire day and evening till after the final candidate had spoken. She was indeed an inspiration to all of us who noticed that kind of caring and dedication. I hope she gets to read this.
Attendees came and went through the long day. Some may have left the event focusing only on the audience — which shrunk as certain attendees left after hearing only the candidates they came to hear; others may have looked around and noticed that this or that was missing or forgotten; still others may have used the event for a little logical social or business networking; and then others, including some of those previously mentioned, may have really gotten something out of hearing the candidates speak.
When I was an Army recruiter, I’d work really long and hard at doing everything I could do to inform a person with possible interest as to what the Army was about, what he would be getting into, what it would be like during basic and job training, what still had to be done prior to the actual enlistment, and so on — doing all I could to prepare the Army candidate for his physical and his immediately following enlistment. I’d even drive those would-be recruits to the airport and see them off to Richmond, VA, where all that would take place.
But you know what? If the person went through ALL that, maybe a couple of month’s worth of preparation what with testing and filling out forms and even getting waivers approved for some kind of exception to the regs, as well as having at least one big conversation with me every week, and then, at the last minute, decided not to enlist, guess who would get blamed? That’s right… me! Nobody ever said, “Oh well! You just can’t make people do what they’re choosing not to do. It certainly wasn’t your fault.” No, they never said that. It was always my fault. And I suppose so it is in life in general. If something isn’t the smash hit one had hoped for, the blame will go on the one who made the plans.
Well, regardless of how any of the candidates may have felt to face a far-less-than full audience, I thank every one of them for showing up and speaking, and remind them that how they, as candidates, act and react during unusual or less than ideal circumstances shows who they are and what they’re made of. I learned a lot about them during this event, and can share what I learned with perhaps hundreds of others.
What happened in that Bel Air room was not just for the caring souls who heard it firsthand. After the event, someone I was chatting with suggested to me that I should offer my services as a consultant to one or another of the candidates. I told him I was not a consultant, but I definitely was a “perceiver.” I perceive how people appear on stage, in their look and their sound, and mostly in their actions. I know that a few of the candidates would probably be somewhat dismayed to learn of how they were perceived — but the good news is, if they really wanted to know, they could ask me and I would tell them for free.
After that, I just might become a professional “perceiver” and charge a fee. But for the most part, I was happy with all of the candidates because not one of them said to me that they would not speak because there weren’t enough people there to suit them, even though they might be used to packed rooms. So no sense asking why there weren’t more people there. If you didn’t go, you can ask yourself why. But we, the Las Vegas Tribune, really just wanted to make the candidates available to voters at large.