It started with a mysterious email from Eric Schlosser, who wrote the forward to my book Organic Manifesto. For security reasons, I couldn’t tell anyone anything until a few days beforehand. I just had to be in Georgetown, Washington, DC, on May 4th. I had to cancel a long-planned lunch with some romance writers—but if ever there was an excuse to cancel a lunch with romance writers, “I’m off to meet a Prince! A real Prince!” was a proper excuse.
The reason for his visit was to be the keynote speaker at a Washington Post conference on The Future of Food. Well, ya’ll know that’s right up my alley. A few days before, I got an official invitation to meet HRH in person before his speech. Of course I didn’t decline. About 20 people waited in a paneled historic room outside the Georgetown University President’s office. There I was with Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Marion Nestle, and a few other icons of the organic movement in America. It was a bit surreal.
The first sign that I knew I would like the Prince was that a burly Scottish-looking brute came into the room and opened all the windows (even though it was a bit chilly and rainy outside). “The Prince prefers fresh air,” he stated. While others in the room shuddered with the cold, I sighed with relief. I’m a lover of fresh air, too.
Suddenly, I turned and there he was, heading straight for me! Our eyes met…his were blue. All I could remember from the protocol was that I didn’t have to curtsy, but I was supposed to wait until he extended his hand first for a shake. We shook hands. His shake was firm (hands of a gardener!). He seemed kind of tan, too. I don’t think it was fake.
Because I was the first one he shook hands with, and I could tell the whole room of folks standing behind me were waiting with bated breath, I didn’t launch into any long-winded conversation. He moved on to the others. I was tempted to pull out my iPhone and take a picture, but that seemed bad form. So I chatted fondly with Don Graham, who is the CEO of the Washington Post, and father of one of my daughters’ best friends. Don was escorting the Prince around that day.
Toward the end of his visit, I got a chance to tell him that my middle daughter was named Eve, after the great Lady Eve Balfour, author of The Living Soil. He enjoyed that. We started talking about the Rodale Institute (of which he is quite aware, thanks to my brother Anthony). Then he told me a secret about Monsanto, which we both found appalling—but also seems inappropriate to share with all of you (except none of you would be surprised either). And then, his security people made me leave the room because I was the last one there and he couldn’t leave until I had left.
I will write more later about his incredible speech (which I punctuated in the beginning with a coughing fit so bad I had to leave the room! Dagnubbit.) But what impressed me most was his genuine intelligence and curiosity. As I told Eve afterwards, “I met the Prince, and he was charming.” Prince Charming! And isn’t that the most important job of a real prince, after all?!
Fortunately for all of us, he has the courage to say what needs to be said to save humanity. If you want to watch his speech, which I recommend, you can find it here.
But as I said, I’ll write more about the whole conference in an upcoming post. In the meantime, I’m off to work!