the choice 2000
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First Date

When I was sixteen and he was seventeen, at a dance after a St. Alban's prom. And he was graduating from high school. I was a junior in high school, just finished my junior year. We both had dates with different people, but a mutual friend introduced us at this party, and we had a brief but intense, and obviously meaningful, conversation. He called me the next day and asked me out for the following weekend.

He was terrific. He was a gentleman, he was funny, he was serious, he was very interested--made me feel as if he was very interested in me. He seemed to be a lot more mature than a lot of the young men that I had known up until that point. And he was extremely good-looking.

Where His Heart Is

When I first met him he was here, graduating from a school in Washington, and all he talked to me about was Tennessee. I mean, we had our circle of friends here in Washington and we cared a lot about them, don't get me wrong, but he told me about the people in Tennessee that he wanted me to meet and how eager he was for me to be able to come to Tennessee. And so I looked forward to that first invitation, and in fact it was a great trip. And he drove me all over and showed me where people lived, and we went to parties, and he showed me the lake, and we walked all over his farm. Obviously, that's where his heart is.

Vietnam

Everybody was faced with this decision--all the young men in his graduating class, everybody in our school, all of them. That was the different reality. There was no choice. If you were a young man and you were graduating from college, you had to know what you were going to do. You were either going to go into the armed services, or, what were you going to do?

Number one, he was anti-war; number two, there was no choice, you were drafted, at that time, if you were a young man; number three, he knew that he or someone from his draft board, his number was going to come up, and he was probably going to know them. He might have grown up with them. It might have been Steve Armistead or Goat Thompson. And he decided he wasn't going to do something fancy so that he would not serve, and that one of him would have to serve in his place. He's not that kind of person. He's got a lot of courage.

How much was his dad's jeopardy in the '70 election, from the anti-Vietnam stance, a part of that equation?

I think it was a factor. I mean, Al knew, clearly, that, ironically, to strengthen his father's hand he should go, that that would strengthen his hand, and he was anti-War as well as his father, his father was a well-known anti-war Senator. But again, that wasn't the deciding factor. I would say the deciding factor really goes to the heart and soul of the man I know, and that is, he wasn't going to have someone else go instead of him. It's that simple.

Entering Politics

Why does he run in '76? Did you want him to?

I think it was because being a newspaper reporter and covering the city council and covering the issues that he had covered by the time that race came open and presented the opportunity to him to run for Congress, a number of things had happened. He had been disenchanted and alienated - took no part in politics. At the same time, we had our first child, Karenna, born in Nashville. We were becoming members of the community and had a sense of that, and, I think he really understood that politics was personal, that it did matter who you elected to the city council, the Mayor or the Governor or the White House. It really could matter in people's lives.

And it was unspoken. And, of course, it obviously was a lesson that he was taking in, against the background of his own life, with parents that were involved in public service for the public good.

So when an opportunity presented itself, it was very unexpected to him and to me. And I was surprised, but he decided initially that yes, he was going to go for it, and after we talked about it that weekend, I was supportive of that.

The Call in '92

The night that then Governor Clinton called, it was around 11 o'clock at night and I happened to answer the phone, and we were at our farm in Tennessee, and he just asked to speak to Al, and that was it. He asked him to be on the ticket, and he accepted.

I think it's one of those very profound moments, when you know that a decision has been made that is going to possibly change your life, certainly going to change our lives for the next four months for the campaign. But we felt very good, very comfortable, because we felt we were doing it for the right reason. We felt it would strengthen the democratic ticket tremendously, that it was already going to be strong, with Governor Clinton as the nominee for president, but that he could bring a lot to the ticket. So, in other words, it felt good, we felt like we were doing the right thing is what I'm trying to say.

Click here for longer interviews and more resources on the life of Al Gore.

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