I am very fortunate to work for the TV station that is the media sponsor for the Town Hall Lecture Series, and every year the series brings four guest speakers to our town to speak. I usually get to go to one, and I always choose the most well-known person on the list. Last year was absolutely amazing - I got to listen to Lisa Ling. I have been a fan of hers since I was in high school and she was on Channel 1. Then, of course, she had her stint on The View. And now she does a National Geographic show. She is an amazing woman, and she gave a very thought-provoking and powerful lecture.
The brochure that has been on my bulletin board since last August!
This year, I chose to see Naomi Judd. Typically, I go with my manager who is a very wonderful woman. We always have a good time together and I really look up to her. However, she was going to be stuck in meetings all day when Naomi was going to be here. Her boss, Larry, knew she was upset about that, and so he asked her if he could take me to Town Hall.
This is how the politics in my office work: When the big boss knows that my manager is mad at him, he is nicer to me because he knows she will see and appreciate that more than if he did something nice for her. If he did something nice for her, she might say he is just sucking up. If he does something nice for me, well then it's more genuine. We're weird, but I'll take it.
Anyway, Larry emailed me and asked if I would like to go with him to the lecture, and then have lunch. I'm thinkin' Naomi and then Olive Garden? Sweet.
We left the office around 10:30a, and I offered to drive us in my PT Cruiser (which is filthy dirty) but Larry said he would go ahead and drive us in his Caddilac. Well, since he insisted...
We got to the lecture a little bit late and had to sit up in the balcony, and we sat behind a guy who was CLEARLY Naomi Judd's biggest fan. Every time she would look our direction, he would wave at her. Needless to say, Naomi's eyes avoided our part of the balcony for most of the lecture.
I have to say, this was not the most interesting lecture I have ever been to. She seemed a little scattered and didn't have a clear, concise message. But this is not to say that I didn't get anything out of her story.
One thing she said that I actually wrote down was, "In life, you get the test first, the lesson later."
She talked about her two big lessons, the first was getting pregnant when she was 17 years old and then, nine months later, giving birth to her daughter on her high school graduation night. The second test was when she found herself in an abusive relationship with an ex-con, living in a junky apartment with two baby girls, and watching him shoot heroine before he beat her up and raped her.
Naomi says, "It's not what happens to you, it's what you choose to do with it."
She chose to move back to Kentucky and become an RN. To this day, Naomi is very interested in medicine and biology, especially neurology. As many of you know, she is also a Hep C survivor. She was diagnosed in 1990 and was given three years to live.
So, after the lecture I asked Larry where we were going for lunch, and he gave me the name of a hotel that often hosts events. I thought that was kind of weird, but who am I to argue with a free lunch?
We got to the hotel and there were tons of people there. I realized this was where they had the speaker luncheon after the lecture, and wondered if Naomi would be there. We were told that we were sitting at the head table, table four. Shouldn't the head table be table one? Oh well.
We found our seats at the front and center table, and I was very impressed to see that Naomi was sitting next to Larry, and I was sitting on the other side of Larry. But then, Larry picked up our place cards and said, "Isn't your birthday coming up?" and he switched them so that I was sitting next to Naomi Judd!
The first thing that ran through my mind was, "I have to blog about this." The next thing I thought was, "I hope I have decent-enough table manners!" I would hate to be called out by Naomi Judd for taking too big of bites or having my elbows on the table.
Naomi made her grand entrance a little while later, and sat right down next to me. We all introduced ourselves, and told her where we were from. I was the only one born and raised here. That didn't seem to interest her much. She asked for some iced tea, but our table had already drank most of it, so when she was pouring all the ice spilled out and went all over her salad! She got a good chuckle out of that, as the other folks at our table frantically searched for a fresh pitcher of iced tea for Naomi! Someone finally found a full pitcher at another table and confiscated it.
Then, Naomi directed her attention toward one gal at our table who said that she was originally from Salt Lake City. Naomi asked her if she was Mormon. The gal said that her family was, but that she left the church when she was about thirteen. Then, Naomi asked, "Can I ask you something? Why don't the Mormon's allow blacks in their church?" Wow.
The poor gal looked a combination of embarrassed, confused and scared. I probably had a similar expression.
Naomi continued, "I've been to Salt Lake. I've been to the Tabernacle. And they don't allow blacks and women are completely subordinate. Can you tell me why that is?"
The gal said, "Well, I left the church when I was young, but I don't think that's the case."
A gentleman at our table who is the editor of our newspaper came to her rescue and gave a light explanation of the Mormon Prophets and how all religions evolve and the Mormon faith is no different and how he really didn't think that blacks weren't allowed in the Mormon church anymore.
At this point, I am absolutely beside myself. I kind of thought it was an unspoken understanding that you don't talk about religion and politics with friends or strangers. I am here to tell you, Naomi Judd doesn't care.
Then she asked the entire table, "Have any of you studied the Muslim faith?" Oh Lord...here we go.
We all said no, and then someone asked her if she had. She made a very pecular face, and then as she was about to explain, she was called up to do her Q&A session for the group.
Larry was really bummed. He said that was the ultimate cliffhanger, and that he was dying to know what she thought of the Muslim faith. I, on the other hand, was not. I had a feeling her opinion was not complimentary, and I was rather put-off by the whole discussion. This is why you don't talk about these things - especially not at a luncheon with a bunch of strangers!
Anyway, the Q&A was also pretty disappointing because one of the first questions was about some brain activity thing, and Naomi went off naming doctors that she's studied with and different areas of the brain she has studied and then talked about how positive thoughts are how she was cured from Hep C. I had checked out by this point.
But, before we left, I snapped one picture of our placecards, just to prove that it really happened. I wasn't about to ask that looney tune for a picture of the two of us, but it was an experience I will probably never forget!
I had to photoshop my placecard for blog purposes, but trust me, that card has my name on it!