Dear Mr. President
IFA would like the pleasure of your insights
In an effort to upgrade the quality of its speakers, IFA has been trying to attract Bill Clinton for the past couple of years. But it took a board member from Arkansas to seal the deal.
It's often said that franchising is a small community, but not as small as Arkansas.
The IFA discovered it takes more than money to get former President Bill Clinton to be your keynote speaker. It takes a fellow Arkansan - more specifically, a friend of Clinton's.
Margaret McEntire, president and CEO of Candy Bouquet and a new IFA board member, grew up in Texarkansas, the next city over from the former President's hometown of Hope, Arkansas. "He lived in a house my aunt used to own," she said.
Growing up in adjacent towns, McEntire said she knew of Clinton, but never formally met him until she attended the University of Arkansas, where he was an instructor. When he was elected the governor of Arkansas and moved to Little Rock, his daughter Chelsea and McEntire's daughter, Brooke, became friends.
"Bill loves children," she said, adding he was the original Mr. Mom. It wasn't unusual to spot the governor taking his turn driving the carpools.
The girls' piano recitals weren't held Saturday afternoons in some church, but rather at the governor's mansion, where Clinton would often accompany them on his saxophone.
"He's a regular guy," she said. "A nice, nice guy."
The McEntires and the Clintons have attended some of the same functions over the years - especially those with an Arkansas focus.
McEntire admits she doesn't know Hillary as well, because she's more "corporate." "They're both brilliant," she said, "but he was the mom." Hillary Clinton, who McEntire said will make a great Secretary of State, was all business. "She'd come to the recitals, but he'd participate," she said.
At age 12, Chelsea went off the live in the White House and Brooke went to college. Both girls have done well for themselves, McEntire said.
When she heard IFA was having trouble securing Clinton as a speaker, McEntire enlisted the help of a mutual friend. In addition, she wrote Clinton a letter informing him about franchising's growth and stature, and telling him that "these were business people that he needed to address."
"He said, 'But they're all Republicans,'" she said, laughing. Which is why he was careful to mention during his speech that he was a fiscal conservative, she added.
After his speech, Clinton returned to Arkansas, where he joined a group of friends to play Hearts - the card game he used to play on Air Force One. One of McEntire's friends told her Clinton was anxious to hear how he had been received by IFA.
McEntire, who was still in San Diego at the time, made sure her husband passed on to Clinton that he had done Arkansas proud.
McEntire more than likely will have an opportunity to tell Clinton in person. The headquarters for Candy Bouquet is right across the street from the Clinton Library, a site Clinton visits frequently.