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Bill Clinton to speak at Town Hall

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  • | 4:00 a.m. September 24, 2009
  • Sarasota
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To host a former president, you’ve got to have the right chair.

Bill Clinton made one special request regarding his visit to Sarasota Sept. 30 for the Ringling College Library Association’s Town Hall Lecture Series: He prefers to answer questions while seated in a leather chair.

After shopping for and trying out what she hopes will be the perfect chair, Olivia Thomas thinks she’s got her bases covered with a contemporary, brown leather chair with just a touch of chrome from Home Resource.

Thomas, Town Hall chairwoman, will pose questions to Clinton in an identical chair during the lecture, to be held at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30, at Van Wezel.

Bringing in a wow-factor name such as Bill Clinton for its 30th year of the lecture series and 35th anniversary of the association, the RCLA hopes to expand the series by appealing to a younger demographic.

“We wanted someone big enough that the name would draw media attention,” Thomas said. “We have a world-affairs theme this year for our regular series — who better to fit in than Bill Clinton with his global initiative?”

A committee of 15 people started planning for the event last spring. The committee had previously contacted the Harry Walker Agency — the same agency that represents Clinton — to feature former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf for Town Hall 2010.

“We couldn’t get him (Clinton) for the regular series because his schedule doesn’t allow enough time for that format, but we kept him in mind,” Thomas said. “He’s kind of got rock star status.”
Bringing someone so high profile to Sarasota has turned out to be almost easy, thanks to Clinton’s secret service.

Typically, the lecture committee makes airport pick-ups and provides transportation, accommodations and handles the speaker’s schedule.

“The good news is that we have less to do because of secret service,” Thomas said. “When dealing with an ex-president, we’re not dealing directly with him, partly for security.”

To avoid the leaking of pertinent information, the committee won’t receive details on Clinton’s arrival or departure plans or be informed of his hotel arrangements. Thomas works primarily with Clinton’s agent and the advanced staff member who will arrive this week to do the necessary walk-through and figure out the logistics.

“Everything has to be approved,” Thomas said. “Press releases, invitations, anything with his name. We can’t advertise on the radio, billboards or TV. They are very particular with how you address him, but it makes it easier once you get one thing approved.”

There are about 300 tickets remaining for Clinton’s lecture, entitled “Embracing Our Common Humanity,” which range in price between $75 and $125.

“I’ve never seen him speak personally, but everyone who has says he’s so charming and charismatic,”
Thomas said. “Whether you like him politically or not, he has gone on to do so much globally around the world and has an interesting story to tell.”


Bill Clinton Town Hall Lecture Series
When: 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30
Where: Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail
Tickets: $75 to $125
Information: Visit or call 925-1345


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