-- Queens College Staffer Susan Jeng Wins Lottery to Accompany the Former U.S. President on his Hectic Rounds Through New York City --
FLUSHING, NY, October 25, 2010 -- On the day that Queens College was struck by a tornado, Flushing resident Susan Jeng, an office assistant for the English Language Institute in Professional & Continuing Studies, was caught up in a vortex that frequently sweeps across the world stage: former President Bill Clinton.
Jeng had this opportunity thanks to winning a lottery held by the Clinton Foundation in which a day with the 42nd president was top prize. As co-founder (with Rev. Dr. Conrad R. Richards) of the Flushing-based Rivers in the Desert Advocacy Center—an organization that aids victims of human trafficking and domestic violence—Jeng has always been interested in the wide-ranging social policy objectives of the foundation. When notified last May that she’d won their lottery, she requested that Richards be allowed to accompany her.
As Jeng and Richards tell it, their “day”—September 16—began at 2:45 pm when a car arrived to bring them to the Hell’s Kitchen studios of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” where Clinton was taping a segment.
Rev. Conrad R. Richards and
Susan Jeng with Bill Clinton
“But first, to show you how busy he is, he sat down for a 30-minute interview with YouTube,” said Jeng, who watched while Clinton deftly fielded questions from around the world in a webcast at a separate facility in the same building.
Following the webcast, they accompanied Clinton downstairs, where he conversed with Stewart for 10 minutes prior to “The Daily Show” taping, which they viewed from the side of the set. “We were not in the audience,” explained Jeng, “because we had to be ready to leave as soon as he leaves.”
Richards noted that Clinton was very accommodating, frequently asking, “Are you okay? Are you enjoying the routine?” and signaling, “Okay, put your skates on. We’re off again,” as they rushed to their next stop—in a separate car that was challenged with keeping pace with Clinton’s fast-moving, Secret Service-chauffeured SUV. As per Secret Service restrictions, Jeng and Richards were not allowed to know Clinton’s schedule. “We had to chase all over the city to keep up with him,” Jeng noted.
The next thing they knew they were at the Marriott Hotel, being rushed by one of Clinton’s young aides through several corridors (“I felt like I was in a spy movie!”). Then they abruptly stopped and a curtain parted to show Clinton addressing a black tie event for a law association. “He gave us this quick look,” Jeng said, “as if to say ‘Where did you come from?’’’
Later as they left the Marriott, Clinton asked, “Are you guys having fun? Come over here and let me talk to you.”
“He’s so tall,” Jeng recalled. “He’s very loving and down to earth. He makes you feel that you’re important to him when he speaks with you.”
Then they were off to a beautiful apartment in lower Manhattan for a private fundraiser for the Clinton Foundation. “We saw some familiar faces,” said Jeng, “senators, a former secretary of state, and there was Deepak.”
The “main event,” says Jeng, came next: a celebrity-studded fundraiser in Williamsburg at the Brooklyn Bowl, the world’s first LEED-certified bowling alley, which also features a performance space. As at the previous appearances, Clinton received an enthusiastic response, especially from young people. And, as previously, he spoke about the need to improve education and train people for the kinds of jobs available in today’s challenging economy. He also affirmed his support for President Obama, imploring: “Don’t make a U-turn!”
Jeng was impressed by Clinton’s ability to tailor his remarks to his audience and by the fact that he never used notes. “He’s so energetic,” she said. “We were only with him for half a day, but we were exhausted.”