The Most Inspiring Man at CPAC 2014

( – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)

Sometimes you have to look in the strangest of places to find true inspiration. But then again, I guess I learned at CPAC….or relearned it I hope…that you have to look at the most humble opportunities if you want to find the most profound rewards.

We had no lack of profound people, whether we agreed with them or not, we had Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. We had Ben Carson and Sarah Palin. I spoke with Allen West, Louie Gohmert, as well as George Will and Byron York…Katie Pavlich…the list is endless. But for this old guy, the inspiration, the lesson of CPAC, came not in the meeting halls or meet and greets. It came in the hallway outside Registration.

In the hallway on the left, as you approach Registration and the main upstairs area in the Gaylord, stands a two seat shoeshine stand. Now before you make fun of me, as I told a woman I know at CPAC, a shoeshine to me is like a pedicure to a girl! It’s a luxury I afford myself infrequently. But that luxury makes me feel comfortable in the company of those I see as my “superiors”. And God knows, at CPAC, I am in the presence of a whole lot of “superiors”!!!

Image credit: Creative Commons Flickr – Elvert Barnes.

During a quiet time on Thursday, I went back to get my shoes shined. I had to wait. I was told the shoeshine guy was helping out at the coat check. I expected very little but a good shine and the false security that goes with it in the presence of people who are vastly more important than me. As I waited, a man walked up, younger than I am by a decade. Well dressed in a conservative style with a tie and vest. He introduced himself as Dino and asked me if I wanted a shine. He was the shoeshine man. We began to talk, and became instant friends. I had met a simple man, the sort of man I am most comfortable with.

Dino told me that he owned the stand and that he was “an entrepreneur.” As we talked, he referred to himself as a “free market capitalist” and a “business owner”. He was proud that he had grasped American Opportunity and was the living “the American Dream”…shining shoes. The son of the chicken farmer (me) had met the shoeshine guy. We were instant friends.

Did I mention Dino was black?

On the second day, Friday, wearing a different pair of shoes, I went and sought out Dino. I was going to be in the presence of my superiors again and, frankly, as is my way, wanted to do business with my friend. On Friday, we discussed black kids and white kids and how entitlement had replaced hard work. He told me how shining shoes was honorable work and that kids today wouldn’t do that. He humbled me…I am the guy who complains about cleaning hen houses. We discussed how black kids actually had it a little better because black pastors were working hard to educate black kids about opportunity and I noted that white kids didn’t go to church much, and white pastors didn’t talk about that. I paid him and we parted with a handshake.

On Saturday, I had to go talk with folks at the NRA. I took the opportunity to get a last shine and speak to my new friend. I sat and waited. I let a well dressed, obviously wealthier guy than me go in front of me. He seemed in a rush. I wasn’t. I was there to get my shoes shined and talk to my new friend. As we sat there, along came Ben Carson and his entourage. The man I’d given my seat to said, “I really like Carson for President.” Dino said, “Oh really? Why is that?” Rich guy, “He’s smart and conservative.” Dino, “I’ve seen a lot of smart conservative guys go by here in the last two days. Why him?” Rich guy, “He’s a great surgeon.” Dino, “Why is being a great surgeon qualification to be President?” And a quizzical look on the rich guy’s face…

Dino, “Are you sure you don’t like him because of what he looks like? There are more qualified men out there that don’t look like him, you know. See, the way I look at it, we just made that same mistake 6 years ago electing a guy because of what he looked like, not looking at if he was qualified.” Rich guy…look of discomfort and payment for his shine. I hopped up in the chair.

Dino, “Ya see, Chip, racism is wrong even when black folks benefit from it.”

So, for all the Congressmen and Kings, for all the would-be leaders of the free world, the pundits and perigods, the lesson of CPAC, for this guy, sat NOT in the halls or the banquets, but in the corridor. I met a man who was, in his mind, “living the dream”. And before I left, I didn’t go to hear Sarah Palin. Before I hopped in the car with Rob Eno to ride home, I went and had my really comfortable Bass shoes, the ones that are beat and scuffed, but feel like slippers, shined. I had one last audience with the most inspiring man at CPAC…..Dino.

About Chip Jones