By Tom Demerly for


“Thank you America! Thank you!

Thank you for being a great country, a great people, a country made up of great people.

You know, we won this election based on many things, one of them is a slogan, and it’s a fabulous slogan, “Make America Great Again.” I say “we” won this election because we all did. Every one of us. There are no losers today. There are no losers in a free country when democracy grinds its often loud, often difficult way toward what it is we all desire, even though we propose to get there in different ways.

We argued and debated, checked and rechecked our system, and we learned that it is still a great system. It’s always been great. Today proves it’s great again. Our forefathers made this system great, and you’ve made it great again today.

This election proves what I’ve believed all along, America truly is great. The fact we’re standing here together, on this day, proves how truly great America is. It’s the reason I asked you two years ago to hire me for this job, one of the most important jobs in the entire world, and by far the most important and sacred job I’ve ever had the privilege of doing.

During this last administration Americans showed why we’re great. They rallied, they demonstrated, they debated on both sides and they worked through a difficult process to be heard. And you are heard. So here we are. Thank you for speaking up, and speaking out.

And I have one thing to tell you as we start out today, America: I hear you.

I hear you calling out from the factories and the assembly lines and the check-out counters. I hear you when you tell me that half of us can’t afford the basics even though the stock market nears all time highs. I hear you call out from both sides of the aisle, no matter where you live or how you live or what you earn. I hear you. And I’m listening.

I’ve heard that government is so bloated with its own rules and forms and regulations that it can’t push away from its own dinner table to answer the knock on the door of people who want the freedom and liberty to remain great, and the ability to be even greater.

I’ve heard that things like the Affordable Care Act are anything but affordable. I’ve heard that you can’t afford to take care of your aging parents even though you work three jobs and sixty hours a week. I hear that you can’t afford college for yourself or your kids so we can continue to be great. I’ve heard that you work so hard that you have no time to retrain for a new job in a changing economy. And I’ve heard one thing that bothers me the most, one thing that ultimately got me here today, I’ve heard, both here and outside our country, that America isn’t as great as it used to be. Well I don’t agree with that. Today proves we’re right.

And America, I’m listening. And I’ll keep listening.

You’ve hired me to do a job, and I’m honored to be the candidate chosen for that job, it’s the most important one I’ve ever had, and I’m humbled that we stand here today, together, ready to get to work. And along the way to getting here you’ve told me what you want done.

You’ve told me you don’t want a hand-out, that you want a way up. You’ve told me that Washington needs to lead, to follow or to get out of the way. We’re going to do some of all three, and in different ways than we’ve seen before.

I’ve heard that we face threats to the ideals and values that we hold dear. The things that are guaranteed to all women and men. These threats originate in places far, far away. We’ll meet those challenges with strength and resolve at every corner.

I know that the creeping cancer of terrorism threatens America. That cancer will never infect our country. I’ve already picked the strongest and most experienced team of people in history to lead our continuing fight against terrorism. And I have a message for those who choose violence and oppression over unity and liberty; Your evil ways are over.

And I know that you hired me not just to listen, but to deliver on the promise of an American dream that, during this past decade seemed, to many, like only a dream while we waited in endless lines and filled out endless forms for a hand-out or a fair chance when all we wanted was to get to work.

I hear you.

Today we do get to work. We work on forging an America better than ever before, built on the foundation of the greatest country on earth. Built by people from all over this world who have always wanted three precious things; a chance, a change and the freedom to prove there are no limits in the United States of America.

This won’t be easy, and in the long American workday we all won’t get everything we want as individuals. But America isn’t only about individuals. It’s about unity, community and our great national ‘whole’ being greater than the sum. That when we reach above our differences and find our common goals, our common aspirations, we can unite in the hard work to make our shared dreams into a reality better than ever before. And as Americans working together in these United States, we can accomplish anything.

I hear you America.

And now the world will hear the sound of an America made great once more. An America that rises up again and again and again, built upon a succession of yesterdays from our foundation and principles to a future of tomorrows greater than we can imagine. An America that will reach ideals and goals not yet dreamed of.

Think of our lives 30 years ago and how different they were then. Now try to imagine our lives 30 years from now in an age when the only constant is change and change happens so fast we sometimes feel we’re lost in a succession of ever-reinventing Americas that often seem strange, out of control.

But we are not lost. Our founders drew maps called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Those great maps will take us to our destiny across any future, no matter how changing and unforeseeable. When we use our shared ideals as our national roadmap we can navigate any change with courage, ambition and grace.

And as we navigate this change together I pledge to always stay the course of freedom, liberty, the strength of the American people and the things that have always made us great.

America, I hear you, and it is a joyous chorus of voices rising up as one to tell of a tomorrow greater than any of us can imagine.

America, I hear you. Now join me in listening to the sound of our success! May God bless these United States of America!”


Speechwriter’s Notes: 

  1. This is written in the language and speaking patterns of President-elect Trump. It is the result of listening to his oration and creating a style that is natural and comfortable for him, using his favorite words. It also includes his penchant for repetition of themes, and restating them in different words during the same speech.
  2. His penchant for speaking in themes, “promises” and leaving specific commitments out of the delivery.
  3. There is a moderate “centering” of position in the post-election rhetoric as the President-elect transitions from a divisive election narrative to the mission of aligning a divided nation in the interest of progress and cooperation; the campaign divided us, the President-elect’s term must unite us in order to accomplish anything.
  4. The speech, as written, runs only seven minutes (07:00). Previous inauguration speeches, including Ronald Reagan’s first address, ran over 20 minutes and were more substantive. In keeping with President-elect Trump’s history of orating only on theme rather than specific substance, and the success it has brought his campaign. At the President-elect’s discretion, specific themes can be outlined into the script while care is taken to maintain the continuity of the theme.
  5. The intent is for media to colloquially refer to this as President-elect Trump’s “I Hear You” speech, a theme that will be revisited throughout his term.


By Tom Demerly for

President Obama during his speech at 2010 winter commencement held at Michigan Stadium on May 1st 2010. (SAM WOLSON/Daily)

Friday, January 20, 2017 is the final day President Barack Hussein Obama II will serve as President of the United States. He was President for 2,931 days.

Those were among the most significant days in my life.

The day President Obama was sworn in I owned a business grossing well over $1M. I earned an upper-middle class living. I owned a house in the city where I was born. I actively participated in local government, paid for a new car in cash and was on track with retirement savings for a person my age.

A year later I lost everything.

The full weight of the banking collapse, the global recession and the automotive meltdown settled on Dearborn, Michigan. The stock market plummeted to 6,000. People lost houses, businesses and livelihoods. I lost all those things and more. I had a stroke and lost part of my vision and needed heart surgery. I declared bankruptcy, packed a suitcase and moved to Tucson, Arizona in a modern day “Grapes of Wrath” migration to start a new life.

Now, 2,500 days later (give or take) I’m back. Detroit and Dearborn are back. I own part of a business again and write for four media outlets published around the world. Abandoned buildings and empty businesses on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn are gone. New ones are being built. Ford Motor Company is rebuilding its engineering center. Small businesses are going back into Dearborn. The stock market is flirting with a new record at 20,000.

Seven years later I have hope again.

It would be wrong to attribute America’s entire comeback to President Obama, and it would be equally inaccurate to blame all of America’s many remaining problems on him.

It is entirely accurate to acknowledge his steadfast adherence to his ideals. It is also accurate to credit him with a measure of unity and compassion that was much needed in America when he was elected.

When President Obama first took office our country was fractured and afraid. And while much of that feeling remains and even expanded during this last, divisive election year, President Obama presided over our national crisis with quiet strength, dignity and wisdom.

He inspired us to rise up, come out, speak up and get to work. If you believed in him, he inspired you to support his agenda. If you disagreed with him he inspired you to oppose his agenda with action and resolve. No matter your political orientation President Obama inspired us to action. He inspired us to hope we could be a part of the system, then he set an example that everyone can be a part of that system.

A consistent theme of President Obama’s time in office has been “Hope”. When he was elected he said;

Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? I’m not talking about blind optimism here — the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!”

But hope is a hollow doctrine without action, and President Obama inspired us through his own action. In every policy that he believed in, in every doctrine that he supported, he was tireless, resourceful and relentless. I did not agree with all of his initiatives, but I remain inspired by his endurance, tenacity and grace in driving them.

Understand that President Obama stood for two things: his political agenda- that you may or may not have agreed with- and most importantly, the strength of hope. Not hope only for our own agendas and politics, but hope for every single American, regardless of politics, race, religion, orientation or aspiration.

That hope has carried us, sometimes in the absence of anything else.




By Tom Demerly for


In a brutal week for traditional big-box U.S retailers, Sears Holding announced the closure of 108 Kmart and 42 Sears locations in 40 states. Overall 150 large department stores are being closed by the formerly popular department store brand. Additionally, department store giant Macy’s announced the closure of 68 stores across the U.S.

As with any large shift in business there is likely no single reason for the closures. They are the result of a complex amalgam of factors that have aligned to degrade the appeal of big department stores to retail customers.

What can the bicycle retail industry learn from the big-box closures?

If you insist on a singular narrative to the “big-box bust” it is failure to adapt.

Big box retail stores are essentially a time capsule of retail since the post World War II consumer boom era. They have not changed significantly since then. Items are stocked by category in displays on a large sales floor. Displays highlight featured products. Shoppers can see, feel and touch items before they buy them. And while this seems like a logical way to present and sell consumer goods it fails to acknowledge a simple theme: Most other factors in retail consumption have changed.

When Sears, JC Penney and Macy’s were founded Costco, Sam’s Club, online shopping, smart phones, “One-Click” and e-Bay did not exist. These new alternatives to traditional retail have exerted a kind of slow, painful “death by a thousand cuts” on traditional department store retail. Add the “reset” affect of the U.S. recession and structural changes in age demographics and you have a brutal conspiracy of factors working against traditional retail.

Retail has become increasingly polarized, with consumers gravitating toward either end of the retail spectrum. They buy from massive online and warehouse stores for commodity items like appliances, most daily apparel and food staples. They buy from small well-branded niche retailers for discretionary purchases like fashion apparel, luxury goods, specialty recreational equipment and items that help define their lifestyle.

The lesson for the bike industry is simple; sell, stock, display and market differently than old school department stores. Look at what they have done, and do the opposite.

Here are a few specifics for bike retailers: Avoid excessive program buying that makes any one brand dominant in your store making it feel like a generic “brand store”.

Bike brand takeover of independent bike dealers has been an emerging trend because of attractive pricing incentives for dealers, financing of inventory and the marketing strength that the big brands offer the small shops. These things sound great to a small specialty retailer. Bike brands have sold small independent dealers on the idea of “competing with the big boxes” by aligning with a big bike brand for marketing, financing inventory and even point of sale systems. The problem with that logic is that small specialty retailers don’t need to, and cannot, compete with the big box retailers. Instead, they need to create and maintain an entirely new identity unto themselves. They need to create their own niche, and that takes original thinking and acceptance of risk.

If there is a singular lesson it is: If the big box retailers are doing something, then the small independent bike shops should invent another approach. Small specialty bike shops should capitalize on their small size by remaining nimble with inventory, rapidly adaptive to trends and constantly changing their merchandising to reflect their position at the leading edge of the sport. They also need to be honest about the structural elements of their business. Are they located in an area where cyclists live, ride and shop? Does the local population use specialty retailers? Are they near other niche-category specialty retailers?

Finally, the small specialty bike shop needs to exploit the great equalizer of modern commerce, the Internet. This doesn’t necessarily mean having a shopping cart experience online, but it does mean presenting products that are unique and branding themselves by communicating a unique voice that reinforces expertise, candor and authority.

It’s possible for the small bicycle retailer to succeed, and some continue to, but the rules have changed and continue to change quickly enough that doing the same old thing will earn a retailer the same destiny as once-great retail giants Sears, Macy’s and JC Penney.




When I was a kid, about 8, a neighbor took me to an airshow. It was 1970.

There were Army Rangers there with a giant boa constrictor. You could put the snake around your neck and have a photo taken. Famous test pilot Bob Hoover, who flew with Chuck Yeager when he broke the sound barrier in 1947, flew a Rockwell Aero Commander prop plane with both engines shut off. There was a real P-51 Mustang there too.

For the finale of the airshow the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds would fly in their supersonic Phantom jets.

After the Thunderbirds landed the father of the kid I went to the airshow with, Alan Larraza, decided we might as well wait there instead of sitting in a hot car in a big traffic jam. Al’s dad heard a rumor that the Thunderbird pilots would sign autographs after the show if you waited. Of course, a rumor like that could never be true.

We waited on the wide expanse of the open airfield. There was smoke in the air and the smell of jet fuel. A fence separated us from the important men who got to walk close to the airplanes and actually touch them. The fence also separated us from the tall, thin men with sharp chins and crisp uniforms who looked like statues and wore their hair stubble short in perfect haircuts that looked like they were done this morning. Everything about these men was perfect- how they stood, the sunglasses they wore, the places they were from, the angle of their jaw.

These men were pilots.

I waited on the other side of the fence, where the regular people had to stay. I came from a single parent home where my Mom barely made ends meet. I wasn’t a great student in any subject except English, which wasn’t really even a subject since it was so easy. I knew, even at 8 years old, that I would always have to stand on this side of the fence at an air show. Only the tall men with the perfect haircuts, patches on their crisp uniforms and polished flight boots got to go on The Other Side Of The Fence.

The Thunderbirds were the biggest, most incredible, most important, loudest thing I had seen in my life. The sound, the smell of jet fuel, the incredible speed of their planes and the giant crowd that came to see them, even at the height of the Vietnam war protests (some hippies were kept outside the gate because they were protesting the “war show”). It was boggling to me that something could be so… big, so serious, so vast, so important.

Men on the other side of the fence in uniforms handed out a free pamphlet with photos of the Thunderbird pilots on the front. The photo on the front showed six men kneeling, one knee up, the other knee down, with big smiles and thin pilot hats. Every man was positioned identically in front of a giant, red, white and blue Phantom jet. These men were the actual Thunderbirds. And I got a free picture of them.

“If ya’ll stick around son, the Thunderbirds’ll be sign’n autographs soon e’nuff”, said a tall man with a cowboy accent in an Air Force uniform from the other side of the fence. He handed out the free pamphlets. Inside the pamphlet were diagrams showing maneuvers the Thunderbirds did, the “Diamond Roll”, the “Knife Edge Pass” and the “Roll Back to Arrowhead Formation” were some of them. On the last page was a photo of a real F-4 Phantom jet with all the numbers about it; how wide its wings were, how fast it went, how far it could fly. Everything you needed to know.

The crowd got thicker at the fence. Six tall men in blue jumpsuits and thin pilot hats were standing out on the concrete near the actual Thunderbird planes. All at once the men began walking up to the fence. The crowd pushed forward. People started holding out their pamphlets as the men got closer to the fence. When they got to the fence, people started snapping photos on their Kodak Instamatics and holding up pens.


In a tradition that dates back to the first airshows, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels pilots sign autographs at the fence line after their flight demonstration at the Cleveland Airshow this summer.

The men in the blue jumpsuits shook hands, leaned over and let people take photos with them, smiling wide grins with their special sunglasses and shaking hands like they knew each other or came from the same town. The men would sign their autographs next to a photo of themselves with the number of plane they flew on the free pamphlet.

I held out my pamphlet. “You gonna be a jet pilot someday son?” One of the Thunderbirds asked me when he signed my pamphlet. He took a pen out of a special pocket on the shoulder of his jumpsuit. I was too stunned to answer. He was very tall. Every part of him seemed… sharp. Perfect. His life must be the opposite of mine, everything in order, everything decided, everything perfect. Everything sharp and perfect and clean

I wanted that. But I never got it.

I joined the Army and did minor work in a special operations unit that gathered intelligence. I wound up with the guys who had the snake at the airshow. It was good, great even. We won a war, spied on the enemy and knew secret things.

But it was never- perfect. Not like the clean, crisp tall men with the red, white and blue Phantom jets at that first airshow.

A month or so ago I found out the McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II, the “Phantom jet”, would fly its last flight with the Air Force at the Aviation Nation airshow at Nellis AFB in Nevada. My girlfriend asked me what I wanted for my 55th birthday. I told her, not entirely seriously since it was such a big thing, that I wanted to see the F-4 fly for the last time. It was 47 years after that first airshow with the Thunderbirds and their Phantom jets.

In the way she works her magic my girlfriend, Jan Mack, got us to Las Vegas just a few miles from Nellis for the airshow. I write for an aviation website called and wanted to do a story on the final flight of the F-4 Phantom II.

Jan and I meet co-contributors to TACAIRNET (Tactical Air Network) Melanie Mann and Ethan Garrity, both pilots from Texas. We’re sitting up front in the VIP area with catered food, our own bathrooms and chairs on the flightline and about 50 cameras.

There are two McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II’s here at Nellis AFB for its last official airshow. These last surviving two of only about seven left in the U.S Air Force, are called QF-4E’s. They have been modified to be flown by remote control without a pilot or with pilots. When they are unmanned other planes can practice shooting them down. Some of the QF-4E’s will die a fiery death, shot down by live missiles fired from brand new F-35 Lightning II’s out over the open ocean in tests.

One of the QF-4E’s here today is on static display so we can touch it and see it up close, the other will be flown in the final airshow demo by Lt. Col. Ron “Elvis” King and retired Lt. Col. Jim “Wam” Harkins of Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

I get to see the last F-4, touch it, look at how it has aged and weathered. I wonder where this aircraft has flown, when it was built, about what happened to the pilots who flew it and where they are today. There are old men here wearing F-4 Phantom hats. They’ve come from around the world to see it fly and touch it one last time. Some of them flew the Phantom a long time ago. One of them may have flown in that first airshow I was at 47 years ago.

There’s a convention that a pilot always says whatever aircraft she or he is flying is the absolute best. Pilots pick careful language to describe a plane they fly, and if you listen closely enough, you get a feel for what it must really be like.

I meet Air Force Lt. Col. Jim Harkins and Lt. Col. Ron King near the QF-4E they will fly today. A bunch of maintenance guys are tending to the tired old plane. Like an old person with difficulty controlling their body, she is leaking everything- fuel, hydraulic fluid. She needs a lot of maintenance to keep her in the air now.

“She’s old, but she still flies good.” Lt. Col. Harkins tells me. “We’ll be taking her home after this, then… that’s about it…” He signs prints of these two QF-4E’s I brought to the show with me. He writes the date of the last flight on the posters. I get a few signed, including one for my friend Lance who is back in Michigan taking care of Jan and my cats while we’re gone.


I shake the pilots’ hands. Thank them for bringing the F-4 out one last time. “You’re welcome. It’s a pleasure”, he tells me. We pose for a photo that Jan Mack takes of us.

And that is it.

The QF-4E flies its last demo. I’m focused on getting good photos of her but during one of the passes I lower my camera and just watch. The smoke and smell and sound are exactly like 1970. It’s 47 years ago and I’m a kid at that first airshow all over again. There’s a new plane here, the F-35 Lightning II, and pretty soon we’ll get a chance to see it fly, talk to the pilot, maybe even touch it if we’re lucky…





By Tom Demerly for


There’s a new American bigot. It’s not who you think.

They rail against the opposing view in broad generalizations. Their toxic vitriol was seen in divisive arguments as old as the American Revolution, the civil rights protests and into today.

They’re just different people now.

The new American bigot uses rhetoric that supports their entrenched fears far to one side of the political spectrum- and doesn’t budge. There is no room for new ideas. There is no suggestion of moderation. They are always right, even now that they are left.

Through recklessly flailed social media driven by shallow thinking that feeds deeply entrenched prejudices the new American bigot wields a mighty and grossly prejudicial voice.

The new American bigot is the polarized Democratic left, a sexist (yes, that’s right), exclusionist, entitled demographic whom, in the wake of an election that didn’t go the way they planned, is throwing their toys.

It’s easy to understand. Gen X’ers grew up with promises of a new American Dream fortified with equality and fairness and a sewn-in silver lining. They got 9/11, three wars and the worst recession in history. They were on the fast track through their 30’s and 40’s but now enter their mid 50’s pissed off. The new American bigot didn’t get what they were promised, gave birth to an even more disenfranchised and entitled generation of malcontent millennials and are rudely awoken from the American Dream gone bad. They tried to build their dreams on the backs of American workers whose jobs were replaced by robots and shipped overseas. In many cases those dreams did manifest, but the people upon whose backs they were built on set off a new alarm clock, waking the now-disappointed American left from their American dream had while sleeping in a house of cards.


The bizarre thing is the new American bigot likely got what they wanted over the last ten years, but a big part of America who got left behind in the recession doesn’t like what they got. So they hit the political reset button through that great democratic equalizer, the electoral vote.

In many cases the new American left is as much a national embarrassment as the right. Entitled and enraged as other countries rocketed past us on gross national product, education and diplomacy.

For Democrats still grumbling about the Republican rout in this past election, it doesn’t fit with your previously stand-up doctrine of responsible social action and high-road advocacy for the downtrodden, even if much of it was lip-service from your “Lake in the Woods, from the $400’s” mans’-palaces.

The people who got left behind over the last eight years are tired of getting the crumbs left over after long lines of bureaucracy from government handouts while banks and giant corporations got massive bailouts that lined the new left’s pockets.

For the last eight years the left wore the crown, advanced up the social and economic ladder. Someone was pushed down under the reverse-discriminating, exclusionist race to make two centuries of wrongs right in only two terms. That is neither possible nor just without someone being left behind. The people who got left behind may not have spoken up by occupying Wall Street, marching on Washington or rioting in L.A. and Atlanta, but they shouted on Election Day.

The people who were pushed down voted their way back up. That’s the very ethos of American Democracy. Following this election it’s left the left constituency more than a little butt-hurt. Welcome to America.

The greatest embarrassment about the new American bigot is they are built on a legacy of truly graceful and enviable social action that catalyzed their movement when it started; Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama. These left-leaning leaders took the high road, rose above when their opposition went low. Their philosophical descendents could learn something from them.

But they haven’t. Not yet.

The American Bigot never changes their rhetoric, but they do change their demographic and political orientation. In the last 30 years the American bigot has evolved into something outwardly different, but thematically similar: Ugly, uncompromising, exclusionary and prejudicial.

If you didn’t get what you wanted in this last election- and half of America didn’t- don’t take to social media proliferating propaganda and throwing stones. Even if you believe the right built their campaign on that- don’t lower yourself.

Instead, rise above. Propose solutions and execute on them. Write letters to your lawmakers both local and in Washington. Take up the cause of the great liberals and left-leaning heroes of our time. Honor their legacy through action, don’t discredit it with whining. As you know, the stakes are high for equality, the environment and diplomacy. Those critical agendas now rest mostly with the left, and they are more important now than ever.

When they go low, you go high. Let your inspiration for peaceful and civil action be a model of unity like Martin Luther King, not harbingers of hate and polarity you so vehemently despise.

Don’t become one of those you spent the last 30 years voting against. Left or right, it doesn’t look good on anyone.



By Tom Demerly for


Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton ran a credible and just campaign. It brings to a probable conclusion a long political career that included two runs at the U.S. Presidency.

Clinton has distinguished herself as a public servant for her entire career. And while no public servant, especially at the highest levels that she rapidly rose to, is without criticism, her dedication to public service never lacked vigor, drive or tenacity.

In a divisive election played out largely on the battlefield of social media, Clinton outwardly played by the old rules. That is commendable. But the new rules are, there are no rules.

Secretary Clinton is to be best remembered by her tireless efforts to preserve diplomacy in a world that lacks civility now. When the world went low, she stayed (at least outwardly) high. Her approach to politics was dignified and poised. She should be remembered for that.

Hillary Clinton will never be gone from public service or commentary, and that is good. She is an articulate and civil voice to be heard, and she will remain relevant. She is particularly relevant contrasted against a new Presidency that has swung so far to the opposite extreme.

If you voted for Hillary Clinton, I commend you. You are as fine an American as Secretary Clinton. It is now up to her supporters to vigorously continue to work, further her worthy doctrine, and be heard.

Hillary Clinton and her supporters did not lose. Regardless of Secretary Clinton’s transgressions and errors- of which all humans are susceptible and most are guilty- much of America is better from the legacy of Hillary Clinton.


Photo and Story by Tom Demerly for



Silence fell over 200,000 people when the announcer’s voice dropped off…

A half million eyes turned up and left, looking to the west.

“And… Ladies and gentlemen, from left of show center- your- United States Air Force F-35A Lightning II..!

It is the first time I have seen a major new aircraft introduced in nearly four decades. It is history. Likely the last time in my lifetime this will happen.

So I look left and up…

A small, grey spike, angled slightly upward, drifting silently toward us at moderate speed. Suddenly its speed gathers. The utter silence is eerie- so many people holding their breath, eyes turned upward, necks craned left. Fingers point. There it is!

It’s flight is like an arrow from a bow until- flame. A tongue of orange perforated fire leaps from the rear of the small grey spike. With unlikely acceleration it angles slightly nose downward and hurtles in front us. Still no noise. Silence. Then…

Like a roar from a movie monster there is a deep growl of fiery thrust, then a sharp, shrill whine above the deep, flaming bass. It’s unlike any sound I’ve heard.

Inside the F-35A USAF Major Will Andreotta, callsign “D-Rail”, cranks his right wrist toward his thigh and pushes his left hand forward. His F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter heels over in the gathering crush of centrifugal force as g-forces accumulate. The Lightning II turns one huge, flat, fiery circle in front of us.

Then it is gone.

There are no stunts. No rolls, loops, tail slides. There is a lingering tinge of afterburner noise as the grey spike rapidly fades into blue sky over Lake Erie.

That’s it.

I had one pass to get a decent photo, and my cameras are old and beat up. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. I get lucky. At the outer edge of my camera’s ability to catch a high resolution image I bag one good shot from a sequence of many. A little Photoshop to tweak color, shadows, light and contrast and I have what may be the most significant photo I’ve shot in four decades: the first time I’ve seen an F-35, an airplane that will still be flying and fighting when I die.


The next morning I get an audience with the pilot of the F-35A, “D-Rail” himself, Major Will Andreotta. Major Andreotta has a tough job flying the F-35A for airshow audiences. Not everyone is convinced the F-35A is a good aircraft. There are protesters outside the airshow holding signs that question how many schools could be built for the price of one F-35A (Quite a few schools could be built, one F-35A costs the Air Force an estimated $98 Million).

Major Andreotta has to chat with everyone from 8-year olds to F-35 protestors to aviation geeks and hybrid journalist/aviation geek/intelligence gatherers like me. But once D-Rail and I begin chatting behind the F-35 demo team tent he senses he’s in relatively safe territory. I ask him pointed questions about F-35 capabilities. My inquiries are laced with attempts to get him to reveal something the rest of the media hasn’t reported on- some new capability, some new feature to report on for the publication I write for, The Tactical Air Network ( D-Rail throws me a bone. He hands me his flight helmet, the nearly half-million dollar helmet that has been a part of the controversy about F-35. They don’t let just anyone handle the $400,000.00 helmet.

It is absurdly light, like a bicycle helmet, and covered in beautiful carbon fiber. The visor looks like crystal and the shell is criss-crossed with communications cables and data cables. With the helmet, D-Rail can “see through” the floor of his F-35.

“It takes a little getting used to, and we don’t turn it on unless we need that capability.” He tells me.

I get no new scoop, no new nugget of previously secret intel about something amazing the F-35 can do. But I do get a series of pregnant pauses and measured responses from D-Rail that hint at many things unsaid.

I also get a handshake, autograph and an F-35 patch, just like the one on D-Rail’s flight suit. My girlfriend Jan Mack shoots a photo of me holding the helmet, standing next to D-Rail with an idiotic grin on my face like a starstruck teenager with a pop star.

But most importantly, I got that one photo when Lightning struck for the first time.