Margaret Gintoft knew there was a chance she might run into a Clinton or two after jogging near her daughter’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y. The Milwaukee psychotherapist was aware that Bill and Hillary Clinton are quite visible in the community – although so soon after the presidential election, Gintoft certainly didn’t expect what would come next.
Last Sunday, Gintoft and her family were hiking in Rockefeller State Park when she saw the former president and former Secretary of State.
She knew she had to take a chance to connect.
"I wasn't going to wave my arms and shout, ‘The Clintons! The Clintons!’" says Gintoft. "I just stood there for a moment, kind of circling around, and I wasn't thinking about the Secret Service."
But when Gintoft saw an opening, she took it. On a personal level, the therapist was devastated with the results of the election, and she wanted to say something meaningful. First, though, she had to introduce herself.
"I just touched Hillary's shoulder and said, ‘I wonder if I might shake your hand, which I'm sure gets very exhausting.’"
Gintoft gave Clinton a hug and thanked her for her campaign. She told her that progressives in Wisconsin feel "bereft." In turn, Clinton greeted Gintoft’s grandson and asked him what grade he was in. "It was very natural and extremely warm," Gintoft recalls.
She says both Clintons engaged in sincere, sometimes political conversation with Gintoft and her husband, Bob, who was canvassing on the night of the presidential election.
"I'm sure it's very hard on you," said Gintoft. "How are you doing?"
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Gintoft and her husband, Bob, with President Clinton, while Secretary Clinton visits with another group at the park.
From left, Margaret Gintoft, psychotherapist with Therapies East Associates in Milwaukee,
Jeremy Gintoft, Sen. Clinton, Mia and Brian Cohen.
"It was just so much more than a sighting," says Gintoft, now back in Milwaukee. "It was a wonderful discussion. We just kind of talked about the deeper political issues and the ramifications in terms of the electoral process in this country and Bill's history with it, going way back. Bill put his hand on (my son) Jeremy’s shoulder and shook his hand. My husband, Bob, was talking a lot about the voters’ depression. Eventually, people got more involved and then Hillary said, ‘Bill, some people are waiting for us. We have to go.’"
Gintoft said she will treasure her 15 minutes with the Clintons, and personally, she is pleased that Hillary didn’t seem exhausted or crestfallen. "I think Hillary looked the best I've seen. She looked peaceful and resolved and solid and soft. She was extremely warm to every single person who came up to her."
Gintoft’s reward for her chance encounter, of course, is the treasure trove of photos she came back to Milwaukee with – that, and a renewed but melancholy desire to stay active in politics. "The takeaway was really almost sad," she says. "We have to fight harder. We just didn't fight hard enough.
"Connecting and speaking with them was like finding a lost compass," she says. "I could redetermine true north again. I could get my feet on the ground and realize we can't give in."
President Clinton speaks to Margaret and Bob Gintoft.