Excerpt: 'Living History'

We ate often at Basel's, a favorite Greek restaurant, and loved going to the movies at the Lincoln, a small theater set back on a residential street. One evening after a blizzard finally stopped, we decided to go to the movies. The roads were not yet cleared, so we walked there and back through the foot-high snowdrifts, feeling very much alive and in love. We both had to work to pay our way through law school, on top of the student loans we had taken out. But we still found time for politics. Bill decided to open a McGovern for President headquarters in New Haven, using his own money to rent a storefront. Most of the volunteers were Yale students and faculty because the boss of the local Democratic Party, Arthur Barbieri, was not supporting McGovern. Bill arranged for us to meet Mr. Barbieri at an Italian restaurant. At a long lunch, Bill claimed he had eight hundred volunteers ready to hit the streets to out-organize the regular party apparatus. Barbieri eventually decided to endorse McGovern. He invited us to attend the party meeting at a local Italian club, Melebus Club, where he would announce his endorsement.

The next week, we drove to a nondescript building and entered a door leading to a set of stairs that went down to a series of underground rooms. When Barbieri stood up to speak in the big dining room, he commanded the attention of the local county committee members — mostly men — who were there. He started by talking about the war in Vietnam and naming the boys from the New Haven area who were serving in the military and those who had died. Then he said, "This war isn't worth losing one more boy for. That's why we should support George McGovern, who wants to bring our boys home." This was not an immediately popular position, but as the night wore on, he pressed his case until he got a unanimous vote of support. And he delivered on his commitment, first at the state convention and then in the election when New Haven was one of the few places in America that voted for McGovern over Nixon. After Christmas, Bill drove up from Hot Springs to Park Ridge to spend a few days with my family. Both my parents had met him the previous summer, but I was nervous because my dad was so uninhibited in his criticism of my boyfriends. I wondered what he would say to a Southern Democrat with Elvis sideburns. My mother had told me that in my father's eyes, no man would be good enough for me. She appreciated Bill's good manners and willingness to help with the dishes. But Bill really won her over when he found her reading a philosophy book from one of her college courses and spent the next hour or so discussing it with her. It was slow going at first with my father, but he warmed up over games of cards, and in front of the television watching football bowl games. My brothers basked in Bill's attention. My friends liked him too. After I introduced him to Betsy Johnson, her mother, Roslyn, cornered me on the way out of their house and said, "I don't care what you do, but don't let this one go. He's the only one I've ever seen make you laugh!"

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