James Rada, Jr.
For anyone watching President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address on February 4, a face seen in the gallery might have easily been mistaken for Santa Claus. It was Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird. He attended the event as a guest of Congressman Jamie Raskin.
“It was the chance of a lifetime to do something I never thought I would do,” Kinnaird said.
Rankin called Kinnaird a week before the event and asked him, “What are you doing next Tuesday?”
When Kinnaird found out that he was being invited to the State of the Union, he was surprised, to say the least. For one thing, Kinnaird is a Republican, and Raskin is a Democrat. “I thought there’s got to be lots of other people more deserving than me,” Kinnaird said.
Kinnaird arrived at Raskin’s office in the Cannon House Office Building around 5;00 p.m. From there, he and Raskin went to a reception in the Rayburn Office Building, hosted by Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland. He had the opportunity to speak with several other U.S. representatives while there. He then traveled on the Congressional subway from the office building to the Capitol Building. He and Raskin visited the Rotunda and Statuary Hall. They then attended a reception at Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office. “It was jam-packed,” Kinnaird said. “I saw the speaker, but it was only from a distance.”
He also had the opportunity to speak with Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser about issues both municipalities deal with.
He also saw several of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. One even remarked on the Scotland pin that Kinnaird was wearing on his sports coat. It led to a conversation with the man for several minutes. “It was exciting to be in the company of all these people and talk with some of them,” Kinnaird said.
He also wore his Maryland tie, which many people remarked upon.
From his gallery seat, he had an excellent view of the podium. He was speaking with someone when he turned to see First Lady Melania Trump entering the gallery. She sat about a half a dozen seats away from him.
He had the chance to speak briefly with Brig. Gen. Charles McGee and his great-grandson for a few minutes before the address.
While the gallery guests were mixed somewhat between supporters and non-supporters of the President, Kinnaird said it was very obvious on the floor who was a Democrat and who was Republican.
“It was electric being in that room,” Kinnaird said.
Because of his nearness to the First Lady, Kinnaird can be seen on some of the pictures and video of the gallery when guests were announced.
He said the entire experience was humbling, and he was glad he was able to be there to represent Thurmont.
Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird and Congressman Jamie Raskin at the U.S. Capitol.