U. South Dakota Junior Finds Friend In Presidential Candidate

This story was written by Allison Struck, Volante
In a country with more than 300 million people, it is unlikely most people will have the opportunity to meet both a former president and a future contender for the nation's top political position.

University of South Dakota junior Ryan Moore is an exception.

Moore, who has Spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia dwarfism, has known Hillary Clinton since 1994. Moore's father, Brian, lost his job when Moore was an infant because employers were not willing to handle Moore's health problems. In 1994, an organization known as HealthRight contacted the Moore family and asked to speak with them.

"They came to our house and interviewed us and talked about what our healthcare experiences had been like," Moore said.

The three-hour interview with the Moore family was taped and shown to Congress. Moore's family was one of 10 chosen to attend a HealthRight event in July in Washington, D.C. At this time, Hillary had been pushing for healthcare reform during her husband's presidency.

Moore, his parents and his three brothers headed to the event in D.C. Moore had been confined to a wheelchair after a hip surgery September 1993.

"Hillary Clinton came into the conference room, and everyone stood up and applauded," Moore said. "My family and I were in the front row, and I actually stood up out of my wheelchair and applauded as she came in.

"She came over to my mother and asked if she could hold me throughout her speech. My mom, of course, said that would be fine. So she actually held me throughout her 15- to 20-minute speech. It was a pretty big thing back then. I think they said I had made it onto CNN, and I think I was in Newsweek as well."

In 1996, while her husband was campaigning for re-election, Hillary contacted Moore and asked if he and his family would like to serve as greeters at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa. Ryan is from South Sioux City, Neb.

"In Sioux City, she asked if I had ever met President Clinton, and I said no. I thought this was kind of neat how she put this, but she said, 'We need to change that, and he needs to meet you,' which I thought was kind of backwards because obviously you would think I would want to meet him," Moore said.

A week later, Moore's family traveled to Iowa to meet former President Bill Clinton.

"We've been in contact with her aides pretty much ever since," Moore said.

In 1997, Moore had a neck fusion operation in Baltimore, Md.

"We got in touch with the Clintons, and they said, 'Why don't you stop at the White House on your way to your surgery?' So on the day before my surgery, we actually went to the White House," he said. "Hillary gave us about an hour tour.

"I kind of got up enough courage, and I said, 'Is President Clinton around by any chance?' At this time I was a 10-year-old kid, and I wasn't really afraid to say much. She said, 'Yeah, I think he's out jogging, but I'll try and track him down.' They did get ahold of him, and he came and talked to me a little bit about my surgery, and he told me just to hang in there. He gave me a little bit of a tour as well."

While Moore was at the White House, Hillary gave him a poster.

"Hillary had the picture of when she was holding me hanging in her offices for about four years," he said. "She actually presented me with that poster and wrote a really nice note on it, and President Clinton did as well, and we actually have that hanging in our living room now."

Moore, who has had 21 surgeries ranging from hip replacements to spine fusions, has stayed in contact with the Clintons for more than 10 years. When he was in a halo after one of his surgeries, the Clintons would send candy. Each president gets to choose a candy to represent their office during their presidency, and Clnton chose peanut M&Ms.

"They would call us every couple of months, and say, 'How are you doing on your peanut M&Ms intake?' We would say, 'We're actually kind of empty,' and they would send us some more," he said.

Now that Hillary is campaigning for her own presidency, Moore said his family travels throughout Iowa attending rallies for the former first lady.

"At the last rally we were at in Des Moines, she actually had me up on stage in front of her and probably 400 people," Moore said. "I just talked about my story a little bit and that I'm in college now. She's actually mentioned me a couple times in her speeches, which has been kind of an honor for me. It's kind of surreal."

As a result of working with the Clintons, Moore said he and numerous other children's stories helped bring healthcare issues to the forefront of the political debates during the 1990s. Moore, whose father has since found a job, said families face similar situations every day. He said Hillary's commitment to improving the lives of others will make her a strong contender for the Democratic nomination nod.

"She has a lot of strong convictions, especially in dealing with children and healthcare and making sure they're looked out for," Moore said. "I think that's a major asset for her, and I really think the American people will see that as well."

Moore said he will continue to attend rallies and support Hillary throughout the campaign process.

"I would definitely be comfortable calling Hillary a friend," Moore said.

Although Moore has developed friendships with two influential politicians, he's not one to brag about his history with the Clintons.

"I'm just an ordinary kid," he said. "I think God has blessed me in that he has put me in a position to meet a lot of really awesome people."
© 2007 Volante via U-WIRE