01/29/08 — They were right there for Capitol Hill speech

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They were right there for Capitol Hill speech

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on January 29, 2008 1:49 PM

Approximately five minutes before the 9 p.m. start of President George W. Bush's seventh and final State of the Union address Monday night, Fox News' Brit Hume told viewers that the chambers of the U.S. House of Representatives were filling up with "members of Congress and other big shots."

One of those dignitaries was Wayne County's own Sheriff Carey Winders.

"I really enjoyed it," Winders said. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Seated in the gallery with his wife, Teresa, he explained that they were sitting not too far from former Sen. Bob Dole and First Lady Laura Bush and daughters Jenna and Barbara Bush.

It was an honor that he wasn't expecting to have this year.

After all, he hadn't been in Washington, D.C., since Bush's first inauguration in January 2001, but he was invited by Rep. G.K. Butterfield, whose First Congressional District includes a portion of Wayne County.

"We had a good view of everything. We saw the president and all the congressmen come in. I thoroughly enjoyed it," Winders said.

One of the best parts was watching the pageantry and the people on the floor below them before, during and after the hour-long speech.

"I had a bird's eye view of when they entered the chambers," Mrs. Winders said. "To see the different congressmen and the different senators and how they interacted with each other...

"We thought it was kind of a neat thing to think that we were sitting in a room with the current president and possibly the future president of our country with (Sens.) Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton there. You could see how they were working the crowd coming in -- talking and hugging. It was pretty neat."

She was surprised at the difference between seeing some of those people on television and then in person.

"You don't really realize someone's stature when you see them on T.V.," she said. "Hillary Clinton is tiny. She's not tall at all. I never realized she's as tiny as she is. On T.V. she looks much bigger."

But most interesting to the sheriff was the chance to really watch the divide between the Republicans and the Democrats.

Knowing, of course, that the president would receive a large amount of support from his own party, Winders said he found it most intriguing to watch how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Obama and Clinton, and the rest of the Democrats reacted at various points.

"I thought it was mighty interesting," Winders said. "The Democrats stood on some things, but on several they wouldn't. It was mighty interesting to watch. How do they know when not to stand up? It seemed to me they were watching Nancy Pelosi.

"When she stood, they stood and when she didn't, they didn't."

But for him, being a Repub-lican himself, there was no shortage of exercise.

"We did a lot of clapping and a lot of exercising -- sitting down and standing up," he said. "I thought the speech was excellent. I think he hit on every point and every issue our nation is facing."

Winders and his wife weren't the only Wayne County residents in attendance, though.

Making the trip about more than just pleasure, Winders also took Capt. Darryl Overton and Lt. Ray Brogden with him to check out Washington D.C.'s radio system -- similar to one the county is thinking about investing in.

Fortunately, he continued, both were able to find room on the House floor behind the congressional pages to watch the historic speech.

"When it was over, at the very end of it, both of them were able to not only see the president, but to shake his hand," Winder said.

And, even though they didn't get that same opportunity, Butterfield was able to secure them an autographed copy of the president's speech.

"I plan on framing that. That's a real keepsake," Mrs. Winders said. "It was just a really neat experience. It was something I'll never forget and we just can't thank Congressman Butterfield enough. He was very, very gracious to us."