On the eve of my birthday I shook hands with someone who might be Prime Minister of Canada one day. But it's such an odd thing -- in the time it took him to warmly shake my hand -- it was Justin Trudeau's birth that flashed through MY mind.
I was almost eleven and a Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's wife having a baby on Christmas Day was big news when you only have two Canadian channels on your family's small black and white television.
And what a flashback it was, our version of royalty: a dashing Prime Minister and the stunningly beautiful first lady Margaret holding their firstborn.
I never thought I'd experience their/our prince up close and personal.
The setting: a packed German Canadian Club in London, Ontario. There were a lot of eager beavers in attendance and I don't just mean the volunteers either. An unusual atmosphere too -- tantamount to experiencing a star's appearance -- you know where everyone's probably a fan already if they bothered to show up on a cool winter night.
And so for most attendees, Justin just appearing in person was enough. But he slowed waded his way from the back entrance to the front, expertly manoeuvring the room. From the elderly, to women who wanted their picture with "him", to moms handing him babies, the younger Trudeau worked his magic.
Justin is already a pro at this and the differences between him and the elder Trudeau start here.
From many accounts, while the father obviously could hold a crowd in the palm of his hands, because of his reserved and shier nature, Pierre Elliot Trudeau could appear colder in one-on-one situations. This is not the case with Justin. He makes people actually feel like he wants to be there, touch them, talk to them, share with them. He even took pictures of them with their camera. How many famous people have you ever seen do that?
Okay, so Justin knows how to work a room. Did he bring his A-game to the podium?
First let me disclose that once I expressed interest in attending, I was asked if I wanted to register with the Liberal party. And then twice at the event. I politely declined for two reasons. One I hadn't heard the guy yet and I wanted to formulate my own opinion (I'm interested in watching all the political hopefuls across the board and making an educated choice) and two, I feel as a journalist I am better able to write what I really think if I remain unaffiliated with any party.
And so here goes...when I first heard the son had entered the race I had high hopes. I wondered if Justin would rekindle a wave of Liberal mania. Even better, the return of Trudeaumania.
After following the politics south of the border for over a decade, I longed to be finally excited about something up here!
I confess that now that I've experienced Justin Trudeau talking in person, his initial declaration to his followers through his personal webcast and then officially to his supporters in his home riding of Papineau do not do the man justice.
There is not a trace of the arrogance his father was famous for. Every choice he makes from his appearance to language to style of delivery is done to convey an everyman image.
His speech is so generic, it is offense proof. He has his script down to the point of masterful pauses an actor would use in delivering a soliloquy.
Yes, theatrical, but real and sincere.
And even though Justin is a glass half-full type of guy, he is not afraid to take on the half-empty type :
"The politics of division have delivered a majority."
The coolness of that sound bite is appreciated by the crowd on more than one level. If one were to caption its reception, I'd venture to guess it would be along the lines of, 'Guess this Trudeau has balls too, no?'
But then he softens the rhetoric.
"The individual is more important than ever before. We don't know what to do with the power."
The sweater and jean clad Justin is very clever. If everyone votes, they are participating, thereby partaking in an active role in power.
He is mobilizing active citizens across Canada one stop at a time.
There are many more speeches for him to deliver and for us to hear. But right now, I'm only holding on to two thoughts.
Justin is much more than a pretty face.
His father would be proud.