I watched the movie “The Way We were” this afternoon. It triggered a flood of memories and thoughts. The movie was filmed in 1972-1973 and was released in 1973. I saw the movie when it first hit the theaters and a few times since then. The reason that the movie takes me back in time is not because of the film itself but because in the summer and autumn of 1972 I was 20 years old and was working on the congressional campaign of Wayne Owens. That was Wayne’s first election. He had previously worked as an aide to Senator Frank Moss, to Robert F. Kennedy and to Teddy Kennedy.
I worked as an unpaid volunteer for Wayne during that campaign. It was my first foray into politics. I worked on the campaign for 5 months or so. I knocked on doors, I mailed letters, I delivered and installed lawn signs. I answered phones. Whatever needed to be done by a volunteer, I did it. I met Teddy Kennedy who came to Utah to campaign for Wayne. Current MSBC commentator Chris Matthews worked on the campaign as well. I met many people that I admired then and still do.
Now back to the movie. One Saturday in October 1972 candidate Wayne, Robert Redford, my first wife (who at the time was not my wife) me, and two or three others spent the day campaigning in various Salt Lake City locations. We went to several shopping malls and to the University of Utah Football Stadium before an afternoon game. All of us drove together from location to location in a small motor home. We talked politics and other topics. I asked Mr. Redford if he was working on any movies at the time. He told me he was working on a movie with Barbara Streisand. I asked him how that was and he said it was good. I was impressed by him because he did not act like a movie star. He acted like a citizen concerned about his State. He did not tell me the name of the movie and that was the end of our conversation about the movie. As we campaigned that day the other campaign workers and I walked ahead of Wayne and Mr. Redford and brought people back to meet the candidate and the movie star. We spent 7 or 8 hours together that day. It was fun and exciting, a day to remember.
The movie came out the next year. It’s a beautiful movie. The cinematography is beautiful. The soundtrack is beautiful and sentimental. It is good love story constructed around political events during two of my favorite decades; the 1940’s and the 1950’s. Almost 40 years later the film still holds up.
After that October day, Wayne Owens was elected to congress. I got married, graduated from college and law school. Later Wayne ran for the US Senate and lost and a few years later he was elected to Congress for another three or four terms When he was no longer in Congress he continued to be actively involved in the Mid East peace process and worked for King Hussein of Jordan. After his congressional career ended, he officed at my law offices for awhile. He was the founder of the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Development. In December 2002, Wayne was in Tel Aviv working on peace process matters. One day he was walking on the beach and collapsed and died.
Wayne was a hero to me. He was kind, gentle and smart. He worked hard for what he believed in. He stood up and fought for what was important to him. His death was a great loss for many, including me.
As I watched the movie today, I thought about that election, I thought about my college years, law school and my first marriage and I thought about Wayne Owens. I thought about the twists and turns of my life during the more than 38 years since that October Saturday. I thought about how all the experiences of my life, good and bad, have become a part of the fabric of my life. I am astonished to be 58 years old. These memories seem like they are of events of just a few years ago. I felt a certain wistfulness, sentimentality and loneliness as I watched the movie. The Salt Lake house has been quiet this past week. The Utah weather has not been good. It was probably a good day to watch the movie.
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